3D Printing: The Factory of the Future

The Coming Industrial Revolution

April 13, 2016By Heidi EllisonArchive
3D-printed prosthetic hands. © e-NABLE/ Thierry Oquidam.

According to the World Economic Forum, we are on the brink of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, during which “a fusion of technologies” will blur the lines between the physical, digital and biological. Technological breakthroughs like 3D printing and robotics will play a major role in this brave new world. The current exhibition at the Lieu du Design in Paris,“Impression 3D, l’Usine du Futur” (through July 9) explores some of the applications of this infant technology and offers clues to its infinite possibilities for customization and to the directions it will take in the future. Already today, a chair can be printed using one continuous extrusion, gold jewelry can be made according to a designer’s specifications, sophisticated hearing aids can be personalized for the wearer, houses can be built on-site from local earth, and so on. Designers, scientists and technicians are working on building more cost-effective and efficient machines. One notable and inspiring project featured is e-Nable, a worldwide, open-source community of volunteers that uses 3D printing to make free prosthetic hands (based on one made from whalebone, cables and pulleys in the early 1800s by an Australian dentist named Robert Norman) for children around the world. Each of the 70 exhibits in this fascinating show is explained in an accompanying video.


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