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From instruments to aircraft: 5 incredible ways 3-D printing is being used to build things

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3-D printing is transforming the way everyday objects are manufactured, often speeding up production processes and generating bespoke designs. Here, CNBC takes a look at five products that have benefited from 3-D printing.



In 2015, Airbus conducted the maiden flight of THOR, pictured below. A "small-sized pilotless aircraft," THOR was built using 3-D printing. THOR stands for Testing High-tech Objectives in Reality, and Airbus has described the project as a "testbed for futuristic aircraft technologies." These include 3-D printed structural parts, advanced aerodynamics and "even artificial intelligence."


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One of the most popular musical instruments in the world, guitars come in all shapes, colors and sizes. From bass guitars to six-string electrics, 3-D printers are now being used to create innovative and eye-catching, colorful designs, such as the one above.


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For those wanting to stand out from the crowd, a 3-D printed hat may be just the ticket. In April 2014, for example, milliner Gabriela Ligenza — who worked with a number of experts — created 3-D printed hats that combined classical design with futuristic technology. The hats were on show at that year's Royal Ascot, one of the U.K.'s most prestigious horse racing events.


The University of Manchester

3-D printing is helping to drive change and innovation in the production and fitting of prosthetics. Just last month, for example, it was announced that students at The University of Manchester in the U.K. had designed and built a 3-D printed and low-cost robotic prosthetic hand.

The university said that the hand, which cost just £307 ($432) to produce, enables users to pick up objects, eat using a knife and fork, and type.


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In 2014, history was made when the world's first 3-D printed car was printed over a timeframe of 44 hours before being quickly assembled at the The International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago.

The Strati was printed in one piece using a method called direct digital manufacturing. The car was developed by Local Motors, the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Cincinnati Incorporated.