Out of all the latest technological breakthroughs during the past decade, 3D printing technology is one of the biggest game changers, if not the biggest.

With the way 3D tech is advancing these days, it’s not that hard to imagine a future where you’d never need to buy anything from stores or order online. All you’d have to do is choose something – anything – from your computer, click “print,” and have it materialize right in front of you, including food.

It goes much further beyond that, as well. In the medical industry, 3D tech is used to create highly precise prosthetics, and even bioprinted cells and tissues, helping combat disease, illness, and disability like never before.

3D technology is definitely the stuff of magic, and it’s not just for us humans, it’s helping millions of animals also.

3D-printed parts

The tedious process of using plaster to create often inaccurate molds for prosthetic parts is now a thing of the past.

With 3D printing, veterinarians can now create 3D-printed parts that will perfectly fit disabled animals – all within minutes. 3D-printed prosthetics can help birds with damaged beaks, turtles with weakening shells, and horses with difficulty walking, to name a few.

Recently, a crowdfunding campaign helped Grecia, a Costa Rican toucan, regain the top half of his beak, which was damaged due to the cruel acts of a few delinquents.

Four local 3D tech companies participated in the effort, using professional-grade 3D scanners to recreate the damaged portion of Grecia’s beak.


Combating the black market

3D tech is now being used to save black rhinos as well. Numerous rhinos are mercilessly killed each year by poachers out to get their horns, a highly coveted item in today’s black market.

In a very creative effort to eliminate this trend, a Seattle-based biotech company used bioengineered keratins, the very same material found in organic rhino horns, to create 3D replicas that are indistinguishable from the real thing.

Producing a high volume of these 3D replicas to flood the black market will effectively reduce demand for this commodity – an excellent way to stop poachers in their tracks.

9 Comments
  1. 3D printing has evolved a LOT in the past year. I think that this technology will bring to a new era, dominated by printed items. Sure, a 3D printer is not currently available for anyone and it certainly won’t print anything, yet. I think that in at most 15 years, 3D printers will still be unavailable for most of us, but, like it’s being said in this article, most of the stuff in stores will be printed. We are lucky to have been born to witness the break out of the 3D era. Let’s see where it goes.

  2. That’s a smart move, printing 3D replicas of rhino horns to save the rhinos. I think in future, 3D printing will go a step further.

    There’s been some success printing organs but I expect it’ll be a little easier and less costly in a few years and both animals and humans who lose limbs or need organ transplants can get organs or limbs fast thanks to 3D printing.

    • I’m personally very happy to read this new technology is helping animals, not only humans 🙂 Specially because it’s us humans who most of the time have caused said damage to those animals. I think it’s great we are doing something to mend the mistakes of others 🙂 Way to go really! In moments like these I do feel proud to be a human 🙂

      I honestly hope 3D printing is widely used to print human organs and limbs in the future, that would change so many lives. Because well, losing a limb or needing an organ can happen to any of us… a friend of mine was recently in an accident, he lost both legs. Right now it feels like the end of the world to him.

  3. 3D printing is amazing, and it does make me giddy thinking about some future world where you can click and print anything you want to buy like food, clothes, gadgets. Then I realize you still need the materials at hand to make those. Like 3D printing a pizza would still require sauce, cheese, dough. And it also opens real world objects up to piracy, literally pirating a car or an expensive pair of shoes. I’m really interested to see what 3D printing is gonna look like in 10 or 15 years. Could be more of the same or something new and revolutionary entirely.

    • I don’t know about you, but for me printing a pizza (even if I need to get the ingredient for the 3D printer to do it) sounds way more fast and practical than actually doing it myself 😉 But to be honest I don’t think it’s very healthy… We are talking of really highly processed ingredients, so I don’t think I’d give up my homemade food for a 3D printed one. It just doesn’t feel right… but I’d love to be able to 3D print clothes and jewelry 🙂

  4. 3D Printing is revolutionary, but it’s still far from being 100% accessible and useful. Right now it’s an amazing technology that is used to even create human skin, but we’re yet to use its full capacity. I imagine everything you order online will be sent to your house via a 3D printer, that’s going to be weird but cool at the same time! 😛

  5. After reading this article something crossed my mind… so if that biotech company is going to flood the black market with those rhino horn replicas, errmm… I guess they are going to get a huge profit off that? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind those people who buy this kind of stuff to get ”scammed”, but isn’t this some sort of fraud? Is it even legal? Just wondering… Not that I care for the interests of those awful people who are willing to kill those wonderful animals for cash, but this whole thing made me kinda curious.

  6. I love this post! Using 3D printing to produce prosthetics is truely brilliant and making fake Rhino horns is even better, it’s such a shame that something like that is necessary though. I recently read a post about introducing edible 6 pack rings instead of using the plastic ones that end up in the sea and cause damage to marine life, such a simple idea but what a difference it would make!

  7. This is so cool! (you still got me with the food print thing) Imagine if you can actually print a car, or a house in the future, maybe. I wonder how this idea will be different in a couple of years, maybe (just maybe) printing things such as cars and houses would be a past thing, and we will be able to print actual living creatures, how would that look like? But with that it comes all the moral stuff… but I think it still would be interesting.

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