Time was when office printers were dot matrix, laser jets or ink jets, depending on your generation. And in each case it was a new and revolutionary thing, bringing wonderment among the people in the office. All of a sudden what once required professional intervention and experience could now be performed by anyone – even a kid. But now old printers seem downright strange because the printing world has undergone a major shift. As the printed word slowly fades toward history, the wave of the future is 3D printing. This latest innovation can do all manner of interesting objects. “Feed” in a virtual design and 3D printers can turn out jewelry, military helmets and even hollowed out concrete designs.
In the world of 3D printing, the most remarkable advances have to do with the ability to print human body parts. One notable case involved someone with cancer receiving a functional 3D printed trachea. In a recent TED presentation a doctor introduced a college student who received a “printed” bladder ten years ago. Right on stage they were printing a human kidney. But for now the science is in its infancy, so to speak. It isn’t possible to print functional organs with nerve cells and blood vessels just yet. Solid organs such as kidneys and livers are the most challenging. In the future however, the printed organs promise to revolutionize medicine because printed organs make use of the person’s own stem cells. This changes the old equations of the organ transplant world where there are donors and anti-rejection drugs among the complicating factors. This is why we love innovation.
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