In the latest episode of Decoded, CNN's Anna Stewart explores the transformative world of 3D printing – from its humble beginnings to its far-reaching applications in various industries.
First, Stewart speaks to Dr. Adrian Bowyer, the founder of RepRap an opensource project to develop a low-cost 3D printer that can print most of its own components. With this vision, RepRap changed the course of 3D printing with machines becoming smaller and more affordable. Bowyer says,“When I started, I thought, well, if we're going to have a self-replicating machine, that sounds as if it might be a fairly revolutionary thing to do. And also, we better prevent it from being restricted to a small number of people. Now, the only way to do that it seemed to me was to give it to everybody. So, I decided it was free.”
Stratasys is one of the largest 3D printing companies in the world. Andy Langfeld, President EMEA, Stratasys, says the technology is rewriting the rules of production in the construction industry,“Think about the traditional process when you need to produce something, or when you need spare parts somewhere on earth. What is usually happening is, that you have a centralised production and you ship goods all across the globe. Now, what we are enabling with 3D printing is that you are printing and producing on demand where you need it, when you need it. And exactly in the quantity that you need.”
For Dominic Wright, co-founder of architecture company Generation 3D, the exciting thing about this kind of construction printing is the positive environmental impact it can have,“This is made 100 percent out of plant-based material. That's a huge issue, especially with the retail space that changes so often. We can take this material and completely recycle it up to five times.”
Large scale construction projects are already underway across the global. Melodie Yashar, VP Building Design & Performance at Icon talks about why 3D printed houses are the future,“Our estimates are that these homes can last a hundred years. And in areas that are very prone to natural disasters and hurricanes, this is going to be a huge value add for introducing community scale housing in ways that have never been done before. So, it's certainly of the future, but I feel like it's right around the corner.”
Icon is also planning to use 3D printing in space exploration. Yashar explains,“We're using moon dust, so all of the dirt and soil that you find local to the moon, we're going to scoop, seethe and process and use it as construction material to create things like roadways, landing pads, as well as habitats in the long term.”
Getting to the moon could also use 3D printing. Terran 1, the first rocket to be created from 85% 3D printed material, launched from Cape Canaveral earlier this year. Built by startup Relativity Space, its co-founder and CEO Tim Ellis tells Stewart,“The bar of success was getting past a point in the first stage of flight called max q. And that's actually the point where the stresses on the rocket are the highest on the vehicle. So, anything past that point meant that we proved the viability of 3D printed structures to withstand the max stresses of flight.”
The programme also highlights how 3D printing is being applied in sustainable food production and life-changing human organ printing, showcasing the seemingly limitless potential of the technology.