In my line of work, it’s easy to see both the benefits and negatives of technology. Overall, I’m optimistic about the future. I think technology will help us live better, more enjoyable lives. But I do not turn a blind eye to how technology can corrupt, destroy and ruin lives.
Usually, this isn’t technology’s fault, but the fault of the people who abuse it. But I regularly come across stories of people who use technology for good. Actually, the word ‘good’ doesn’t give them enough credit. These are stories of technology literally changing lives for the better.
To create is the greatest gift we can give
The key element that separates humans from machines is our ability to create. That could be a song, a poem or even a life. Humanity exists to create. But creativity doesn’t always come easily. For example, it would be difficult to make your own shoes, if such a creative impulse ever struck. Dreaming of building your own home? I know I’d hire a professional.
However, the world is changing fast. New technologies are helping us create as never before. Of course, I’m talking about 3D printing.
A year and a half ago, there were only two pure play 3D printing stocks — 3D Systems and Stratasys. And both of these companies were new to the NYSE and NASDAQ, respectively.
Now there are more. VoxelJet AG, ExOne Co, Materialise NV, and Protolabs are four examples. Each is a pure play 3D printing company. However, each offers a slightly different business model.
Some of the new listings target consumer 3D printers. Some target commercial 3D printers. Some also have scanners, materials and online stores as part of their business. Some do it all.
The 3D printing industry is growing with remarkable speed. And now there are some quality companies out there for investors to consider.
Investors can make some exciting returns with the right 3D printing companies. But even more important (at least to the world) is that 3D printing is changing the practice of medicine and helping people live better, fuller lives. 3D printing is a genuinely life changing technology.
If it’s broke, then 3D print a fix for it
Take, for instance, recent headline news in Australia: Doctors from St Vincent’s Hospital, Anatomics (an Aussie biotech company), and CSIRO 3D printed a new heel bone for a 71 year old Melbourne man.
This wasn’t just any old 3D printed bone. It was an Australian-made world first. The man, Len Chandler, had just heard the diagnosis. He had cartilage cancer in his right heel, and doctors initially said surgery was the only option. The operation could involve amputation of his leg below the knee.
There didn’t seem to be any other option, but Professor Peter Choong thought otherwise. Choong had been working with 3D printing in surgery. But he was yet to use it in a situation like Chandler’s. The tumour in Mr Chandler’s heel is a rare condition.
Choong, though, was confident that a new, 3D printed heel bone for Mr Chandler was a viable option. He believed that not only could this technology save Mr Chandler’s leg but that he and his team could achieve a historic medical and technological breakthrough in the process.
The hospital took a scan of Mr Chandler’s healthy left heel. They sent this data to Australian implant manufacturer Anatomics. Anatomics then took the scan and created an accurate mirror image of the left heel. This would become the blueprint for the new right heel.
Then CSIRO took the blueprint for the new right heel and 3D printed it using titanium.
In a report on 3Dprint.com, Dr Choong was quoted: ‘Science advances have allowed us to consider 3D printing of bones and we were able to get information from Len’s foot and use that to tell the computers precisely how big his foot is, and reproduce that using the new 3D technology.’
Choong and a team of doctors then removed Mr Chandler’s tumour and right heel. In the same surgery, they implanted the new titanium heel.
This was a few months ago. Mr Chandler is expected to be off crutches by Christmas.
It’s likely that, just a year ago, Mr Chandler would have lost his leg and would have worn a prosthetic for the rest of his life. Now, thanks to this revolutionary technology, he’ll continue to live a life with both legs.
It’s hard to fully articulate how revolutionary 3D printing is, but it’s safe to say it’s one of the most powerful technologies of the 21st century. We discover new uses and benefits of 3D printing every day.
There’s no doubt in my mind that this industry will continue to grow. We’ll see good companies become great. And we’ll see many more cases of 3D print technology changing lives for the better.
Technology Analyst, Revolutionary Tech Investor
Editor’s note: Sam’s article first appeared in Tech Insider.