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Coronavirus relaunches 3D technology opportunities

3D technology has been at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19 and has helped to prevent health collapse. It also shows the potential of 'start up' frequency to innovate in this emerging sector.

Faced with the need for medical supplies, 3D printing became an excellent emergency solution, enabling the immediate production of parts that were beginning to run out in hospitals. The initiative focused on respirators first, but technical difficulty and approval issues ended up making protective visors the easiest and most practical resource.

Far from what was speculated a few years ago, it now seems clear that not everyone will have a 3D printer at home. The evolution of additive manufacturing no longer seems so linked to the home space, but to the industrial environment.

Actually, the fourth industrial revolution, in which artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, genetics or biotechnology stand out, also includes 3D printing. All of this affects labor markets, the generation of new employment and the need for different skills. Without forgetting the ability to transform many traditional business models already consolidated.

Although the vision of 3D printing today is rather domestic, the reality is that it will affect sectors such as construction, biomedicine, architecture and construction, fashion, automotive and aerospace, food, education and even the legal sector.

The aerospace sector benefits from the possibilities of 3D printing. Companies like General Electric use these techniques for a multitude of components used by NASA, and others like Airbus have printed complex parts on demand, ensuring on-time delivery, streamlining supply chains, and reducing material waste.

In automotive, the American company Local Motors printed the Strati, the first car manufactured almost entirely by a 3D printer, which has 49 parts, compared to 5,000 or 6,000 of a conventional vehicle.

In genetics and biomedicine, the possibility of printing human cells and organs is considered. It is also possible to print stem cells for tissue creation, or for new drugs. 3D cell printing can also help study certain diseases and develop new therapies, and even predictive 3D models for operations reliability and decision making.

Sure, this technology will help in many sectors and will give many business opportunities, but it must also be taken into account that 3D lawyers and jurists will be needed to tackle the legal challenges posed by the world of 3D printing.

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