1. something (such as an interesting fact or event) that can be observed and studied and that typically is usual or difficult to understand or explain fully.
2. someone or something that is very impressive or popular especially because of an unusual ability or quality.
When developed in the 1980s, 3-D printing was immediately unusual and difficult to understand or explain fully. 3-D printing initially focused on creating prototypes, such as for automobiles and airplanes. While a useful exercise, the utility of 3-D printing has increased a thousand-fold with the printing of actual parts. Usable devices! In the medical field, this translates to splints placed in peoples' bodies and customized exoskeletons following spinal cord injuries.
You might wonder the relevance of advanced capabilities of 3-D printing for a psychology blog. Psychology, as the science of human behavior and cognition, needs to stay on top of technological advances. As I see it, just as the fMRI magnified the usefulness of MRI scans by monitoring blood oxygen levels, the printing of parts increases the functionality of the 3-D printer. For psychology, the fMRI machine allows researchers to look at brain areas typically activated during exercises as well as individual differences in brain area activation. The relevance of 3-D printing is yet to be harnessed as a phenomenon for use in psychological research and treatment.
Future medical advances via 3-D printers might include cell study in three dimensions and creating a fully functional kidney or liver. Where might 3-D printing take us in psychology?