The 3-D printing of metal parts promises to revolutionize a wide range of industries. Aircraft carriers, for example, might no longer need to carry spare parts for the myriad aircraft, engines, and weapons systems they carry. Instead, each part could be printed as needed.
The big worry of course is that the mechanical properties of 3-D printed parts might not match those of parts made in other ways, particularly when they are used as critical components, in high-performance jet engines for example.
To that end, materials scientists have spent much time and effort characterizing the mechanical properties of these parts. And consequently, they are now used as customized medical implants, jet engine bearings and for rapid prototyping in the car industry.