3D printing technology was invented 30 years ago, but it has yet to make a major mark on most people’s daily lives. Participants at this year's 3D Printing Technology Exhibition in the southwest Chinese city of Chengdu hope to change that.

3D scanning and printing have been identified as potential drivers of the next technological revolution that could change the way we think and live.

The 2015 World 3D Printing Technology Industry Conference and Expo is being held in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, from June 3 to 6.

Proponents say 3D printing allows individuals to realize their creativity in a quick and easy, though not necessarily cheap, way

But despite the high cost of materials, 3D printing can still be more affordable and eco-friendly than buying ‘real items’ and is more developed than any rival technology.

Even in age-old industries, such as music and art, this cutting-edge technology is offering new possibilities.

Artists used to need days, or even months and years, to create sculptures of their subjects. But now, a 3D body scanner can capture your exact body shape and every detail of your appearance in just 15 seconds, automatically uploading your data to a computer and printing it out. But it does not stop there; luxury pens, earrings, necklaces, clothes and even shoes are all just a print away.

Experts say, in 10 years, the world will be in an era of intelligent manufacturing that will completely change the way we live. And 3D printing technology will be entering an era of 3D technology 3.0—integrating advanced Internet, big data, and cloud computing.

3D printing and scanning technologies have been mainly used for personal interest and consumer goods, but experts are optimistic about its future development into other industries such car-making, medicine, architecture and even aerospace.

"In the industrial side, we see more parts going in to the aircraft industry; aircraft are looking to use these parts, they are going to be lighter and more efficient and major fuel savings, so the environmental will benefit from it," said Graham Tromans, chairman of the World 3D Printing Tech. Alliance.

"In order to widen the application of the technology, we need to make the materials better, we need to make the machines faster, we need to make machines a hundred times cheaper, in order to see these technologies being applied. In the future, the technology will be able to print biological materials, print organs to repair body parts, but it might also be able to print i-Phones and gadgets, technology, and this is the most important development, I think, we are chasing," said Bill O’Neil, professor of laser engineering, Cambridge University.

There are still obstacles that 3D printing will have to contend with in the future if it is to move into the mainstream, such as copyright issues. But for now, with costs continuing to fall, and accessibility growing, this technology's potential appears as limitless as one's imagination.





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