From basketballs to robotic guard dogs: McCormick Place showcases the versatility of 3D printing

The future has come to McCormick Place this week as leaders in the world of 3D printing are gathering in Chicago to show off their latest technology.

It's poised to change everything from medicine to sports. 

"3D printing is a process where you create a digital file and then it transforms into a 3D object," said 3D printing expert Angie Szerlong. "It's very unlike traditional manufacturing."

More than 400 companies and 10,000 people from around the world are at McCormick Place this week to show the world how the manufacturing world is about to change.

From the mundane, like plastic chairs, to the futuristic, like a $100,000 robotic guard dog made of 3D-printed parts. 

"It walks around the perimeter. Finds if anything's going on. It lets the folks know what's going on," said Adam Mohamed of Asylon Robotics.


There are cars, bikes, buildings and bombs being built with 3D-printed parts. And it's changing the game in sports.

Next year, Chicago's Wilson Sporting Goods is debuting its new 3D-printed basketball called "Airless" because there's nothing in the middle. The ball is a 3D-printed shell of see-through rubber. 

"We see innovation happening in every part of sports, right? Footwear, other kinds of equipment," said Dave Krzeminski of EOS. "Why not the object itself? It pushes the limits, gets people thinking and puts it in the hands of athletes."

But perhaps the most fascinating application of 3D printing is in medicine, where companies are now using the technology to manufacture replacement body parts from head to toe. Replacement skulls, eye sockets, knees and spines are all being 3D printed to fit the specifications of each patient.

But what's coming is even more amazing. 

"The real future in healthcare will be bio-printing," said Devarsh Vyas of 3D Systems Medical Devices. "Where someday we might be able to 3D print organs like a heart or a liver or a lung.