Additive Manufacturing Strategies

The Top Ten Most Significant 3D Printed Things: The Results Are In

ST Medical Devices

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First I came up with a list of the 10 most significant 3D printed things, then this list was expanded upon to include 24 and you could vote to determine once and for all what in 2017 would be the Most Significant 3D Printed Thing.

I’ve tabulated your results and the winners are…….

10. CRP Technology’s Lamborghini Headlight Washer Flap 

Italian 3D printing service CRP Technology showed us back in 2003 what a role 3D printing could play in automotive manufacturing. A delayed first Lamborghini Gallardo absolutely had to be made on time for launch. An eager public and press awaited the debut of the sports car. Manufacturing delays with molding companies almost ruined the crucial launch. 3D printing comes to the rescue. CRP 3D prints the functional Headight Washer Flap for the first hundreds of Lamborghinis. This is a powerful portend of future 3D printing use by car companies.

9. GE’s LEAP Fuel Nozzle 

The image that launched 1,000 PowerPoints. Industrial use of 3D printing has been growing for decades. It took GE‘s wish to industrialize the process for actual commercial aviation engine parts to inspire much of the world’s business community to catch on. Furthermore GE’s bracket challenge showcased what was possible with 3D printing and how metal 3D printed parts could save weight.

8. SLM Solutions and Professor Wood Acetabular Cages 

SLM Solutions is still one of the largest metal 3D printer OEMs. Way back when the company also pioneered using 3D printing to make acetabular cages. These hip replacement implants are now 3D printed in their tens of thousands. A pioneering use for metal 3D printed parts in real life applications as well as in the human body, this led us (together with other similar developments) to many more uses for metal 3D printing in medicine.

7. Olivier van Herpt’s 3D Printed Ceramics

Olivier was the first to 3D print large functional 3D printed ceramics and has been working on developing his own 3D printing technology for over five years. Even today most 3D printed items in ceramics are 10 by 10 centimeters at best while Oliver has been able to routinely 3D print items of 80cm and more in height. Vases, bricks, busts and sculptural objects 300mm by 800mm are made in a matter of hours, much faster than 3D printing with polymers.

6. Scott Summit’s 3D Printed Fairings

In 2008 Scott Summit showed us that we could use 3D printing to make fairings, braces and prosthetics. A prosthetic could be a beautiful as well as functional thing and 3D printing could usher in the next generation of medical devices. The aesthetic has been copied often since but Scott pioneered it.

5. Luxexcel’s 3D Printed Optics

Luxexcel wowed the world when it was able to make the world’s first optically clear and functional ophthalmic specialty lenses using 3D printing. Their invention could potentially disrupt a number of industries and have real impact on glasses as well as industry.

4. Materialise’s CMF Implant for Surgical Planning

Materialise is the leader in 3D printing software as well as one of the largest 3D printing service bureaus in the world. This unique combination gives the company an edge in developing software and new applications for 3D printing. 3D printed hearing aids, implants and surgical guides are just some of the things pioneered by the Belgian company. In 1996 the company produced a 3D print that could act as a surgical planning tool. CMF (Cranio Maxillo Facial) surgeries are complex with unique implants often needed to replace or repair damaged portions of the face or skull. With 3D printed CMF implants years away from being possible the company did the next best thing and prepared a surgical planning model based on an MRI. This was one of the first significant movements towards medical 3D printing.

3. Benchy by Creative Tools

The 3D Benchy is a 3D printing torture test. A deceptively fun and simple looking model it can tell you a whole lot about how your 3D printer is working, what you need to improve and how it compares with other machines. Released by distributor and retailer Creative Tools the Benchy helps 3D printer operators develop, improve and dial in their 3D printers. For OEMs, resellers, distributors and companies the Benchy can be used to benchmark settings, filaments, printers and software with competitors. The Benchy is for many a unmissable tool in their 3D printing arsenal.

2. The e-NABLE Hand

3D printed prosthetics have been a thing for a while. Many have long had desktop 3D printers as well. The e-NABLE hand showed us all that 3D printers could be used for good, not by some anonymous corporation but by you at home. The powerful combination of low-cost 3D printing and community driven design led to tens of thousands of people volunteering their time to work with e-NABLE. A future of distributed innovation and production could potentially await us.

1. RepRap Machine Parts by the RepRap Project

The RepRap Project has had a huge influence over desktop 3D printing. Spawning MakerBot as well as Ultimaker and subsequently hundreds of other firms, the Project showed us all a 3D printing future that could happen. Desktop 3D printers would build a future for us all if we only built them. Dr. Adrian Bowyer collaborated with core contributors from around the world to bring first one and then many RepRaps to us all making the 3D printing revolution possible.

Do you agree with the voting results? Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at or share your thoughts in the Facebook comments below. 


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