3D printing has been used to manufacture parts for Army troops in the field and a socket wrench aboard the International Space Station. The technology can be used to print electronics and even to apply live skin cells to help heal severe burns.
The possibilities are endless - but so are the complexities, because 3D printed objects aren't quite like the "real" thing. A 3D printed nickel alloy, for instance, might look and feel like nickel alloy, and even be composed of nickel and the other alloy components. But it's made differently from the traditional process and its underlying microstructure is different. And before it can be trusted for widespread use in, say, aircraft wings, understanding that underlying structure and its properties is crucial.
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