3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is the process of creating three dimensional products from a digital model. 3D printing is made possible by a process of adding successive layers of material, or an additive process. This joining process is made possible by a materials printer using digital technology and has been on the rise in recent years. This process is completely different from our current subtractive manufacturing process which relies mostly on cutting, drilling, etc.

We have seen 3D printing in the fields of jewelry, footwear, industrial design, architecture, engineering and construction (AEC), automotive, aerospace, dental and medical industries, education, geographic information systems, civil engineering, and many others. We will show you a few cool examples below!

Using selective laser sintering, the process of using a high power laser to fuse together thermoplastic particles into a mass with a 3D shape, Nike has created a light weight cleat that increases the performance of football players. Nike’s new cleat weighs in at 5.6 oz (28.3 g). Wow!

The Massachusetts company, Nervous System, uses computer algorithms to design its nature-inspired jewelry. A 3D printer then cranks out the organic forms in materials such as nylon plastic and stainless steel. Because Nervous System’s manufacturing process doesn’t require large facilities, massive manual labor, or high transportation costs, it can make its products both ethically and affordably.

Earlier this week, Dita Von Teese modeled a long black gown made of “powdered nylon” printed on a 3D printer. The 3D dress used 17 different types of pieces connected by little joints — 3,000 of them, to be exact — to perfectly hug Dita’s figure. What a neat idea!

3D printing is not only for the fashion field! Recently, a man in the US with a damaged skull had a 3D implant printed from a digital replica of his skull. It covered 75% of his skull! Oxford Performance Materials, the company behind the implant, thinks that there’s no reason these 3D-printed bone replacements couldn’t be used to repair other damaged areas, like limbs.

Controversially, the first 3D printed gun was created out of plastic parts. HaveBlue’s custom creation is a .22-caliber pistol, formed from a 3D-printed AR-15 (M16) lower receiver, and a normal, commercial upper. In other words, the main body of the gun is plastic, while the chamber — where the bullets are actually struck — is solid metal. The interesting part of this is that the lower receiver, what legally constitutes a firearm, can be printed. This means people without a license, or a revoked one, can print an off-the-books gun. Pretty soon, entire guns will be able to be replicated through 3D printing. This also means that they will be undetectable with metal detectors. Kind of scary.

These are only a few examples of the 3D creations we found and we are excited to see where the future of 3D printing will lead us. What kind of products do you predict will be created next using 3D printing?