3D printing has come a long way since its inception back in 1984, when it was first created by Chuck Hull from 3D Systems Corp. Working in a similar function to inkjet printers, you create a 3D design on a computer with its dimensions sent to the 3D printer – where finally, several successive layers are formed to produce a complete object. Used in a number of different industries, 3D printers have been enlisted to print anything from robotic aircraft to prosthetic limbs.

But this has also opened up several opportunities within the creative sector, such as providing artists with an inexpensive way of producing their designs – as well as being made available as DIY kits to allow buyers to make their own 3D printed products. Given the sheer scale of potential printing options, the possibilities are endless. Yet as it transcends from fulfilling practical demands to sating creative needs, how else can 3D printing be used to our inspirational advantage?

See also: How 3D printing is helping doctors

What's 3D printing all about

Here are some of the best inventive examples of 3D printing uses:

1.    Fashion.

US women’s clothing retailer Victoria’s Secret debuted a 3D lingerie set at their fashion show earlier this year, showcasing a Swarovski crystal gem-adorned design. The brainchild of New York architect Bradley Rothenberg, it was one of the event’s most standout pieces – with Rothenberg admitting: “We also wanted to push the limits of the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) process to see how thin we could print the material to be as textile-like as possible.”

3D printed lingerie

2.    Organs.

One such instance that proved truly lifesaving was that of Kaiba Gionfriddo – who was born prematurely with lung development problems. Later diagnosed with tracheobronchomalacia (weak windpipe), this resulted in the collapse of Kaiba’s trachea and left bronchus – causing his heart to stop nearly every day. Dr Glenn Green and Dr Scott Hollister from the University of Michigan came up with a 3D printed bioresorbable splint, and as a result Kaiba no longer needs to rely on a ventilator to breathe.

3D printed bioresorbable splint

3.    Senses.

Yahoo! has teamed up with a Japanese creative agency, Hakuhodo Kettle, to assist with a school for the blind. The search engine is helping blind children to learn how to use the web thanks to a device called Hands on Search – using voice recognition technology along with a 3D printer to transform vocal enquiries into solid objects. In addition, Princeton University created a bionic ear thanks to the use of a 3D printer – and as the hearing of a bionic ear is much more advanced than that of the average human ear, researchers are using this example as a means of bringing together electronics with tissues.

3D printed ear

The diverse usage of 3D printing has proved hugely astonishing, from helping us save time and money by printing prototypes on demand to expanding our imagination. With businesses such as eBay and Coca-Cola all benefitting from this technology, more than ever innovation is being embraced and encouraged in a bid to enhance our daily lives.