The best things ever created by 3D printing

The best things ever created by 3D printing

3D printing is the process of creating three dimensional solid objects from a digital (CAD) file using an additive process. Additive processes create objects by laying down successive layers until the object is complete. This is different to subtractive manufacturing – which is what we do – where sections are removed from a larger object to create the smaller, finished product (as in laser cutting: we cut shapes from a larger sheet of metal).

Early additive processes began in the 1980s and have come a long way since. Processes for metal include selective laser sintering, direct metal laser sintering and selective laser melting. During the 1980s and 90s, nearly all metalworking production happened by casting, fabrication, stamping and machining (like our laser!), but now 3D printing can allow for rapid prototyping in the metal working industry through building scale models of the finished products.

There are tonnes of applications for additive manufacturing (3D printing) including architecture and construction, automotive and aerospace, military applications, engineering, medical and biotechnology, fashion, jewellery, education and food. Yes, we can 3D print food!


In early 2014 the Swedish supercar company Koenigsegg announced their One:1 supercar, utilising many 3D printed components including a complete turbo charger assembly.

In May 2015, Airbus launched their A350 XWB, which includes over 1000 components that are 3D printed. This year, too, the Royal Air Force Euro fighter Typhoon flew with 3D printed parts.

The first car in the world made using 3D printed parts was called “Urbee” and had windows and body work made using 3D printing. This car was created in 2010 by US engineering group Kor Ecologic and Stratasys, a 3D printer manufacturing company.

As well as these vehicles with 3D printed parts, Honda has designed 3D printable models available from its website that people can download and make. Unfortunately, though, the cars can’t be driven – they don’t actually work!

Architecture & Construction

Until recently architectural models were built by hand and took a long time to complete. Now, 3D printing can be used to render scaled models with minimal lead times.

Ambitiously, Amsterdam based company MX3D plan to use flexible robots to build a pedestrian bridge across the Amsterdam canal.

More impressively, technological improvements in 3D printing materials and flexible robots enabled a move into manufacturing large parts for the construction industry. Dr Behrokh Khoshnevis researched and helped to build a 3D printer that can render an entire house in 24 hours using a process called Contour Crafting. Contour Crafting is an additive manufacturing – 3D printing – process using computer controlled systems to lay down layers of material like concrete. Thus enabling the building of houses very quickly and will all of the conduits for electrical and plumbing supplies already embedded in the build.

As well as houses and architectural models, 3D printing can be used to rebuild historic statues such as the Buddha’s of Bamiyan, destroyed by the Taliban in 2001 after five centuries, which are now in the process of being rebuilt by 3D printing technology.

Fire Arms

With guns banned in the UK, but not in America, the advent of 3D printing working fire arms for the defence industry came with risks to the public if they could get hold of the blueprints and a 3D printer. In 2013 the US based group Defence Distributed succeeded in designing the first working blueprint for a plastic hand gun that could be produced using a 3D printer. The US Department of State immediately demanded that the open source instructions be removed from their website.

In 2014 a Japanese man was the first person in the world imprisoned for making firearms using a 3D printer. Mr Yoshitomo Imura posted videos & blueprints online and was jailed for 2 years.

Medical & Bio Technology

3D printing has been used to print patient specific implants and devices for medical use, and it’s very impressive tech!

In March 2014 3D printed parts were used to rebuild the face of a badly injured motorcyclist in Swansea. In October of the same year, a 5 year old girl born without fully formed fingers on her left hand became the 1st child in the UK to have a prosthetic hand made with 3D printing technology.

And it’s not only for people. 3D printing has been used to help injured animals too. In 2013 a 3D printed foot allowed an injured duckling to walk again, and in 2014 a Chihuahua born without front legs was fitted with a harness and wheel created with a 3D printer. Even hermit crabs and Eagles have benefited with crab shells and a new beak being 3D printed for them.

In 2015 the FDA approved a surgical bolt that allows for less invasive foot surgery, eliminating the need to drill through bone in the treatment of bunions.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 3D printing can be used to print models of unborn babies from ultrasound images.

Also in 2015, a 3D printed robotic hand designed by Open Bionics won the UK James Dyson Award, leading the way in moveable prosthetic limbs that can be printed.

From 2012 biotechnology firms have worked towards using 3D printers to build human tissue and organs. In 2013 Chinese scientists began printing ears, livers and kidneys with living tissue.

Also in 2013 a new jawbone was successfully 3D printed for an 83 year old Belgian woman.

To top all of this off, the first medicine was manufactured by 3D printing in 2015. It’s a pill to treat epilepsy and is the first in probably many medicines to be created through the use of 3D printing technology.

Computers & Robots

3D printing can be used to manufacture laptops and other computers, including decorative and functional cases.

Robots can also be built using 3D printing… and then the robots can 3D print bridges!


Movement into and around space requires cool tech, but in September 2014 it got cooler when SpaceX delivered the 1st zero-gravity 3D printer to the International Space Station. In December of the same year, NASA emailed the CAD drawings needed to produce a socket wrench to the astronaut onboard and viola, a 3D printed tool to repair the station!

Not only is this application of 3D printing technology cool, but it’s much cheaper and faster than transporting completed parts by rocket!

And even more cool then that, SinterLab Project is researching the creation of a lunar base constructed using 3D printing technology to microwave sinter lunar regolith to create solid blocks for building.

Art & Music

In 2005 academic journalists began to report on the artistic applications of 3D printing. By 2011 it had taken off and an installation focussed on 3D printed artwork was held at the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of the London Design Festival. This installation was titled Industrial Revolution 2.0: How the Material World will Materialise

3D printers can be used to build musical instruments, and guitars have been particularly popular. Designer Olaf Deigel produces bespoke guitars made using CAD drawings and 3D printers. Vinyl records have also been printed using this technology, with Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke working to release a new song as a 3D printed record in 2014, using a technique developed by American researcher Amanda Ghassaei that converts digital music into 3D printable grooves.


In Bahrain, large scale 3D printing using a material similar to sandstone has been used to create unique coral shapes which encourage coral polyps to colonise and regenerate damaged reefs.

Burgers & More

Food can now be 3D printed, bringing us ever closer to the replicators featured in Star Trek! In a world where 3D printing is cheaper, the printing of food could go a long way to ending the third world’s hunger and farming problems. But would you trust a computer to make a rendered steak taste like a chunk of meat sliced from a cow?

3D Printing has a vast and interesting future in all of these industries, being able to create a great many products quickly and accurately. It hasn’t yet over taken the laser cutting industry, though. Our precision parts and cost effective cutting by laser is still the best method around for cutting metal. So, if you need precision metal parts, give Yorkshire Profiles a call or email. Or, why not take advantage of our new online quote and ordering system for simple profiling!

Yorkshire Profiles Ltd

Yorkshire Profiles Ltd