Remy is a rat with the wrong dream. He has great ambitions to be a chef in the kitchen, but it’s not realistic because vermins are a pest, and humans don’t generally welcome them.
That was the outline for Pixar’s Ratatouille. But as fine-dining chefs are seen as food artisans, technology has once again turned a conventional view on its head: how will 3D printing change the gourmet industry?
A restaurant in London is riding on this trend, but this won’t be the last example of how industries are changing with the use of 3D printing.
GovInsider has pulled together four areas where the tech can make a dent in the public sector.
At first glance you’ll wonder – is this stingray real? Researchers across United States have managed to create a hybrid critter, capable of swimming in a sinuous manner, almost, like the real deal.
The baby ray comprises a 3D printed elastic body and skeleton. It has a rubber body coated with rat heart cells that are genetically modified to contract under light. This allows it to move, and scientists were able to guide it through an obstacle course by flashing strong and weak light pulses, according to Inc.
Potentially, this moves scientists one step closer to printing functional human hearts and tissues.
People have also used 3D printed body parts – limbs, ears, skull transplants, and even an acrylic vertebra. Last September, doctors in Croatia inserted a custom acrylic vertebrae into a cancer patient. Surgeons believe that this is a huge deal in medical advancement because pure acrylic-based materials will reduce the likelihood of complications, compared to titanium support which costs more, and slows down recovery time.
3D printing is also used to develop customisable tablets. The technology allows hospitals to adjust drug doses for individual patients, rather than a one-drug-fits-all approach. Researchers in London found ways to print odd shaped pills; while academics in Singapore developed an approach that would allow multiple drugs to be loaded in one tablet, and subsequently be released at different rates.
2. Public safety
Robots don’t always detonate bombs successfully. As a result, Allen Tan – then ordnance disposal for the U.S. military – was almost killed by one.
He’d sent a robot to disable it, IRIN news writes, but it failed the job. Suitable training materials are scarce – where such skills are usually taught from textbooks and slides. “It’s crappy for me to learn from a PowerPoint”, Tan told IRIN.
Since then, Tan has 3D printed intricate replicas of munitions from plastic, so that ordnance disposal technicians can train to disable these weapons.
The new tech can provide realistic models and simulate better training for officers. The US State Department recognised the shortage of such a product, and provided the initial funds of US$100,000 in 2012 when his business first started out.
Now, Tan already has an established client list: the United Nations sends them to countries in Africa; while Red Cross sends his products to villages in Laos, where 25% of them are still ladened with unexploded bombs.
Imagine a day when public buses and trains can be deployed at drastically reduced costs. Already, 3D printing can slash car manufacturing costs and time, and save on manpower in assembly lines.
In 2014, Strati was the first 3D printed car ever built. It took more than a year to design, but a mere 44 hours of printing, and was assembled in four days.
The company behind the car also announced Ollie last month, a 3D printed electric bus that can carry up to 12 passengers and converse with them. Commuters can ask Ollie where they’re headed to; why it makes specific driving decisions; and – say you’re on a date – even suggest dining hotspots.
The day passengers can chat with their 3D printed public transports will be the dream. It’ll perhaps help with befuddled tourists scrutinising town maps.
“The building industry is one of the most polluting and inefficient industries out there,” Hedwig Heinsman – co-founder of DUS Architects told Guardian; but “with 3D printing, there is zero waste, reduced transportation costs, and everything can be melted down and recycled. He believes that the technology can “revolutionise how we make our cities”.
And the Dubai government has proved this. The country just completed its 3D printed office this May. It took 17 days to print all the layers, which was assembled on site within two days. Labour cost was also cut by more than 50%: one staff monitored the printer; seven people installed the building components; and 10 electricians and specialists oversaw the engineering processes.
The country wants to be a global leader in 3D printing, and develop 25% of buildings with the new tech by 2030. It is going all out in this venture: gathering talent and funding; providing research infrastructure; and drafting the legislation.
And in China, WinSun took the world by storm in 2014 after it built 10 houses within a day. The houses were made out of recycled materials, at a cost of US$5,000 dollars each.
The company has since raised its game: building the tallest 3D printed building – a five-storey apartment complex – and a villa.
Undeniably, the tech holds great promise to set up living quarters in disaster-stricken towns, and as housing alternatives for the poor community.
But every tech comes with its flaws. Researchers from New York University warn that hackers can breach access to internet-connected 3D printers and wreak defects on components. “New cybersecurity methods and tools are required” for protection against compromise, says Ramesh Karri, professor from the university.
Countries are continuously expanding the use of 3D printing. As new means are discovered, this will reshape the way industries work. The day we replace chefs with automated printers will be sign that we are at the peak of change.