3D Printing 2016

From New Media Business Blog

Jump to: navigation, search


3D printing, also known as additive or subtractive manufacturing, has quickly risen in the past decade. By placing layer after layer, it constructs a three dimensional object from a digital file. This file is produced through the use of computer-aided design (CAD) software, which is then used to recreate the object of desire - replicating almost anything. The different types of 3D modelling like stereolithography, selective laser sintering, fused deposition modelling, digital light processing, selective laser melting, electronic beam melting, laminated object manufacturing, and many others are used. Each utilizes a variety of materials to transform it into the item of choice. Using the current technology, many have produced items like phone case, automobiles, clothing, drugs, and even food. But with all the advancements in place, soon organs and body parts will be fully functional and could eventually impact the medical industry tremendously.

Popular 3-D Printer by MakerBot



Beginning in 1981, the concept of 3D printing was brought to life through Dr. Kodama’s introduction of Rapid Protoyping. It was created in hopes of developing a cost-efficient method to produce prototypes for his industry, which was very costly at the time. Unfortunately he did not patent his creation, so in 1983 Charles (Chuck) Hull’s invention of the Stereolithography Apparatus (SLA) came to light and became the very first version of a 3D printers. His process of 3D printing is the process of utilizing a vat of photopolymer resin and solidifying it layer after layer beginning at the base and then working its way up.


The whole process of creating a 3D printed object is rather easy with the many sources over the internet. By using one of the sources or creating a file on your own it can be easily transferred over to a printer to print your object.

Create File / Get a File

With all the different sources we see over the internet nowadays consumers can easily download a file of something already created, get a third party to create a file, or create it themselves with a 3D Scanner or CAD software available.Once you have the file you want you can also manipulate it and change certain designs of it if not already to your preference. Then using an SD memory card. USB, or WiFi the file is then transferred to the printer where it is created.


There are many types of printers you can choose from and many can get their objects printed online with many different businesses that manufacture 3D printed objects. By choosing a certain printer, there will be a different process taken into creating the final object. Also, with each process a different material can be used and its durability will also vary.

1. Stereolithography (Cure liquid materials)

This is a type of rapid prototyping technology that uses additive manufacturing techniques to create mostly concepts models and moulds for industries like medical, automotive, and aerospace. With this, a vat of UV curable polymer is used and from the bottom up it takes a UV laser to trace out each layer. On contact, the layer will harden and then another new layer is placed on top and repeated. It also creates support structures to hold up the object throughout the process so it does not collapse. Once the whole object is created, it is removed from the platform and the supports are taken off, then it is cured in a UV oven to further solidify. When that is all done, many manufacturers will sand it down and even design it further and place color on it. This method is highly recommended for these industries because of its ability to create smooth and aesthetically appealing parts that are also water resistant. It is also because of its speed that many use this process of 3D printing.

2. Selective Laser Sintering (Melt or soften material)

This is another type of rapid prototyping technology that uses additive manufacturing techniques to create highly durable, lightweight, and heat and chemical resistant objects. But instead of a vat of polymer it uses powder to create the layers. Powders that they generally use are different types of nylon that are thinly spread onto a powder bed. Just like the SLA processes it uses a laser that is projected through a mirror to trace over the material and it then fuses the powders together. After each layer, the powder bed lowers and rolls off the excess power and then another thin layer of powder is placed on top until the object is complete. For this process, instead of creating support structures, it uses the unused powder from each layer as its support,so once it is complete it is taken out of all the powder and cleaned off. You can see this process used in production parts, tools, fixtures, automotives, and sculptures because of how lightweight it is. It is however quite rough on the surface and lacks the fine details you may see in other methods.

3. Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM)

This process can been seen as a rapid prototyping technology as well as an end use parts using additive manufacturing. It uses many different materials, like thermoplastics, that are threaded out through extrusion nozzles onto the platform. This method contains two types of extrusion nozzles, one for the support structure and another for the actual product. Like the glue gun, it then expels the melted material layer by layer onto the lowering platform which then hardens. This method creates objects with visible lines but can easily be sanded down and painted over top of to create man different products because of its great strength to weight ratio. It creates fully functional and durable items which is why it is in a variety of different industries because it can be made into commercially used items and in the automotive, medical, and aerospace industries.

Applications of 3D Printing

3D printing has already been implemented successfully in several industries. As seen in Gartner’s 2015 3D printing hype cycle, many industries have been applying 3D printing into addressing its business needs such as prototyping This allows companies to reduce research and development costs in order to increase profit margins and also allow companies to fine-tune their products with both precision and efficiency. Although some analysts are skeptical of 3D printing improvements and further innovations, the hype cycle describes several upcoming technologies. Things such as 3D bioprinting are currently in the developmental pipeline with great potential.

3D printed Phone Case

Consumer Goods

One of the most popular uses of 3D printing in the market currently is with consumer goods. Simple goods such as phone cases and tools are being produced for consumer use as it is cost effective and also allows for personalization.

Printing of such goods are implications of localization where consumers are able to print at home or local printers. More functional goods are also being printed such as locks which point towards [1] the future of consumer 3D printing where more products will be produced through 3D printing.

Kinematics Dress


The fashion industry is often one of the biggest technological advocates as the industry is based on staying on the forefront of trends. Through 3D printing, fashion companies are able to bring the outwardly concepts to life in order to inspire and produce accurate visualizations of their vision.

Nervous Systems has created the dress called Kinematics. [2] It is a proof-of-concept as a chain-mail like dress is created via SLS printing technology. The design allows for flexibility for the wearer, which was a concern for some as 3D printing may be seen as rigid and unbreathable. 3D printed apparel is a lucrative opportunity for companies as companies can reduce wasted resources as well as provide precise measurements for the wearer with ease.

Footwear companies are also exploring the use of 3D printing as it provides similar production improvements and flexibility. Adidas [3] is currently exploring the incorporation of 3D printing into its manufacturing process of its sneakers such as the production of soles. With the current trend of automation in mass manufacturing, 3D printing may pick up significant traction in the near future.

Airbus A350


3D printing plays a vital role in the aerospace sector. As aerodynamics is a key component for aircraft testing. Airbus is a prominent user of 3D printing as it allows for a maximization of aerodynamic accuracy as well as reduced prototyping costs. The newly announced Airbus 350 contains over 1000 3D printed parts as part of their innovation strategy.

NASA also utilizes 3D printing as the cost to print tools and resources on board the International Space Station are substantially lower than sending such goods as packages onboard rockets. Not only does 3D printing reduce costs, it increases the potential for prolonged expeditions as 3D printing could be applied to producing food and tools on-demand so that human and technical needs can be fulfilled for an extended time period.

Strati Car


Similar to the aerospace industry, car manufacturers utilize 3D printing for both prototyping and part manufacturing. Koenigsegg, Swedish car manufacturer known for producing high-speed exotics, incorporates 3D printing into its production chain. For example, their variable turbo is 3d printed. 3D printing makes business sense as they are scaled as a small manufacturer so printing the parts reduces investment in fixed costs such as manufacturing machines.

Several startups are looking at 3D printing as the major manufacturing process. Local Motors is one of such companies that has successfully produced the Strati, a functional car that uses a 3D printed body using carbon reinforced plastic. BMW also uses such materials in its cars, which is further implication of such technologies in the future. [4]


Food Printing

There is a great interest generated in the culinary industry in regards to 3D printing application in food creation. 3D food printing is conducted in a similar manner as traditional 3D printing but with edible printing material in order to create different foods. One of the pioneers of such technologies is the Foodini, which is able to create different cuisine such as chocolate desserts and pizza.

There is discussion in which 3D food printing can be integrated into upcoming smart home technologies. With the rise of the Internet of Things and integration of home appliances that communicates with each other, 3D food printing can make food for owners based on the ingredients available and user preference.

3D Jaw

Medical 3D Printing


One of the most common uses of 3D printing in the medical industry is the creation of prosthetics. 3D printing allows for accurate measurements in order to tailor the prosthetics to the user’s measurements via 3D scanning. A successful application of such technology is the creation of a prosthetic jaw for a cancer patient at the Indiana University School of Dentistry [5] 3D printing enables doctors to provide accurate measurements and increase patients’ quality of life.

3D Printed Model

3D printing has enabled doctors to substantially the risk of major surgeries by conducting mock operations on 3D printed models based off patients’ measurements. Doctors in China utilized 3D printing technology to prepare for heart surgery on a nine month old baby. Due to the difficulty of the operation coupled with the intricacy required to perform said operations on the infant, a 3D printed replica of the heart was created in order for the doctor to plan out the procedure. This greatly reduced risk as accurate measurements could be made beforehand in order to avoid any unexpected complications during the actual surgery. [6]

Skin Printing

Skin Bioprinting

Although still in its clinical testing phase, replication of the skin is under heavy development. One of the major advocates are those in the military as skin bioprinting is useful in covering wounds as a first aid tool on the battlefield. [7]

3D Printed Ear

Organ Bioprinting

Many see organ bioprinting as the next frontier of 3D bioprinting that will catapult the industry to the mainstream. Organ bioprinting involves the use of biomaterial and patient DNA in order to cultivate organs that are used to replace damaged or ageing counterparts. Although this technology currently lacks the development required to truly conduct organ replication due to complications such as blood vessel recreation other engineering problems.

Organ bioprinting brings along several advantages such as reduced host rejection of the new organ with the use of the host’s DNA as well as greater precision of the organ as the component can be customized to the patient’s dimension. By being able to readily produce such organs, patients awaiting organ transplants can receive more quickly due to the reduced demand for donated organs. [8]

Medicine Bioprinting

One of the developing sectors within Bioprinting with great potential for disruption is within Chemical Bioprinting of medicine. Lee Cronin, professor at Uniersity of Glagslow discussed the possibilities of applying chemical #D printing into manufacturing of drugs at home. This could be a huge disruption for the pharmaceutical given that patients can “make, not buy” their medications on the fly which could not only save resources, but possibly save lives [9]

Consumer 3D Printing

What are things to consider when buying a consumer 3D printer

Customization/Modifications Available

Some 3D printers allow for heavy customization, and therefore being more geared towards the enthusiast crowds who have specific needs when it comes to which printer they use. On the other hand, some printers require next to no customization, are are extremely easy to start using, making them easier for beginners and intermediate users who are just starting out or only need the basic functionalities.

Ease of Use

The ease of use of a printer can tie back to the amount of customization required and the general start up time required to begin using a 3D printer. Some 3D printers require hours of customization and setup before it can begin printing, but some others are much more "plug and play"


Certain desktop 3D printers will come with their own software, and often times, it is locked onto that software. This aspect refers to both the capabilities of the provided software, and the ability of the 3D printer to be able to utilize different, 3rd party softwares.

Build Quality

Generally refers to how well each printer is made, and what materials the printer is made out of.

Print Quality

Refers to the quality of the prints of each printer; some printers are much more precise with their prints and can have precision of up to 20 microns (0.02 mm). This aspect can also refer to the


Not all prints come out successful; this is not necessarily always the fault of the printer, as sometimes the blueprints for each job are insufficiently modeled. However, some higher end printers are able to handle poor modelling better, and are able to successfully build products at a high percentage. A low failure rate is under 10%.


Price ultimately is determined by the combination of the rest of these factors put together. Some budget printers can start out at $500, while the most expensive of 3D printers will cost you up to $4000.

Below are several 3D printers on the market right now – this not an exhaustive list, as there are many other printers on the market that may serve your needs better than the ones listed. The printers shown below are just a list of what you can expect and have been chosen to show the different sides of the spectrum with respect to the qualities above.

Makerbot Digitizer
The Makerbot Digitizer - 3D Scanner

The Makerbot Digitizer is not a 3D printer, but actually a 3D scanner. Placing a small object in the center, the Maketbot Digitizer will scan the object using a revolving camera. Within 12 minutes, the Digitizer will produce a 3D model which can be printed again, or modified using the included software or your own 3D modelling software. While this is a great opportunity for 3D printers, as it easily creates 3D models without needing 3D modelling skills, it also poses great issues regarding copyright with its unique ability to produce almost identical replications of items. Currently, the copyright implications are not huge, as the majority of 3D consumer printers lack the accuracy and precision to replicate an item perfectly; however, as 3D printing technology advances and costs fall, there will be copyright issues to follow. [10]

3D printing using a 3rd Party

As 3D printing technology is still growing, it may be wise to wait to invest. In this case, there are many local businesses, schools, and even libraries that have 3D printers that are available for a small fee plus cost of materials. 3D Hubs, a printing service that will connect you with local 3D printing services. This is particularly useful for printing out smaller items that do not require high precision – while many of these printers can create pieces for rapid prototyping, the accuracy of these printers will not be enough for more demanding prototypes. [11]

Local libraries, such as the Richmond Public Library, have 3D printers you can rent out at a small cost. The printer at the Richmond Public Library is the Makerbot M2 [12]

Thingiverse is a website where users can share 3D printing models for download; the items offered on Thingiverse range from art pieces, to functional items like cases and mounts for various items.

Our Thoughts

Although many consider 3D printing as a developing technology that has lost interest with the and its development has largely plateaued, we believe 3D printing still has a great potential to be further integrated in different industries. 3D printing has succeeded in its application within various industries, especially as a tool for research and development.

Social and Legal Implications


As 3D printing technology develops, the ability to create replicas of Intellectual Property (IP) will become a bigger issue, particularly as these replicas will resemble their counterparts better than ever before. Pete Basiliere, a research director at Gartner, believes that the emergence of startups and shorter product cycles provide a “fertile ground for intellectual property theft using 3D Printers” (Basiliere, 2014). Businesses creating unique products will have their IP easily copied by those with 3D printers, particularly with the rise of 3D scanners like the Makerbot Digitizer. In turn, Intellectual Property will be harder to licence, and there will be less to monetize on. The IP thieves will have a shorter production cycle compared to before, and can have localized production, which will be all possible as 3D printing technology grows.

Currently, people are already able to print out toys, parts, even guns. However, there is a huge question regarding the safety of these items. It is hard to tell if these items meet the requirements of the originals, and if there are any other safety concerns. Furthermore, there is currently a lack of regulation regarding any of these replicas -- this is the case with a large portion of the legal issues currently as 3D printing is still an emerging technology and has not garnered full attention from lawmakers.

Weapons - The Liberator

A good example of how legislation and regulation are lagging behind the evolution. The Liberator is the first functioning 3D printed gun – currently only a single shot gun which isn’t 100% reliable, but all parts but 1 was 3D printed. Approximately 100,000 of these plans were downloaded online before they were ordered to take it down, and blueprints to the gun are definitely still out there from other sources. The only legislation that bans this gun is a law that declares all firearms have to be detectable with a metal detector – therefore, if one were to use a metal piece as one of the parts, then the Liberator is legal.

There are a couple of large issues surrounding the Liberator, moreso regarding the concept of being able to 3D print a gun, rather than the Liberator itself. The plans for this gun are widely accessible, as 100,000 copies of the plans were downloaded before it was taken down and are accessible through different sources on the web. The accessibility makes it so anyone with a capable (or even incapable) 3D printer can create the gun. The gun is completely unregulated, and therefore is not 100% reliable; particularly so with those creating it with an incapable 3D printer or for those without proper knowledge of the gun itself.

Air Emissions

A large percentage of the materials currently used for 3D printing are plastics – most common are the ABS filament and the PLA filament. The majority of 3D printers produce unhealthy air emissions, in the form of ultrafine particles. The PLA filament produces 20 billion ultrafine particles/min, and the ABS filament produces 200 billion ultrafine particles/min. While there isn’t a medical consensus as to the extent of the damages of these ultrafine particles, it is believed that they are involved in the toxicity of plastic fumes and further contribute to any breathing problems as they will settle within the lungs.


The current theme of most 3D printing legal issues revolves around faster rates of research than rates of regulation, and bioprinting is just another example of that. While it isn’t a widely accepted method yet, research is developing quickly and 3D printing has been used in several medical projects. There are a lot of questions around the regulation of bioprinting, moreso than other aspects of 3D printing because it is dealing with the human body. Who should be able to print organs? Who will ensure that the quality of the resulting organs is up to standard? And how can we be sure these organs will work for years to come?


3D printing is extremely reliant on plastics, especially currently with the materials available for most desktop versions. The most popular material, the ABS filament, is not biodegradable, while the PLS filament is. This is an important aspect that will need attention, particularly with the rise of sustainable operations, as it can become an issue if left unresolved and as 3D printing grows in popularity

Legislation Changes

On July 22nd, 2016, -- 3 years after the creation of the Liberator -- legislation was finally passed that would require a unique serial number for 3D printed guns and other homemade firearms. This legislation was passed in the state of California, and approved by their governor. Each firearm that is created would require a serial number to be registered to it for it to be legal, and it will be illegal to own a firearm without the serial number. To acquire this serial number, it would require a background check through the Department of Justice. Talks to create a law to regulate 3D printed firearms started in 2014, and finally, legislation was passed in 2016 to somewhat control 3D printed firearms such as the Liberator. [13]

However, it is important to note how long this legislation took to pass; the liberator was created in 2013, and the legislation came by 3 years later. Furthermore, the legislation does not come into effect right away; the official commencement of the bill will begin July 1, 2018, marking over 5 years since the original Liberator was created. It is a good example of how emerging technologies challenge legislation and the government, and also is a testament to how difficult and slow the process is to pass bills.

The creation of this bill is a good thing, ultimately; it marks the beginning of regulation over a sensitive 3D printing issue. But it also raises many questions about the future for 3D printing regulation. In this specific case, there will be 5 years between the emergence of the Liberator and its regulation. Regarding the Liberator, there are many distinct disadvantages regarding reliability and effectiveness when compared to traditionally manufactured guns. Thankfully, the technology for 3D printed guns has not advanced greatly over the past 3 years; we aren't able to fully replicate the results compared to traditional firearms. But what if technology were to develop faster than 3D printed firearms did? This gap between the emergence of new technologies and the regulation of technologies could be critical in future developments. Particularly with even more sensitive topics, such as the human body and 3D bioprinting. It is very realistic that we will have functioning organs before we have any regulation around them -- and this could ultimately halt further development of bioprinting. Without knowing if these organs are safe, and knowing these organs come from a safe source, how will patients know if it is okay to adopt this technology?

Supply Chain Disruption

Traditional vs 3D Printing Supply Chain

Typically, technological advancement leads to globalization and globalized supply chains. With 3D printing there is an opportunity to shift towards localization and locally manufactured goods. By comparing the traditional and 3D printing supply chain, there are evidently fewer agents in the 3d printing supply chain. The implications of this difference can be found below.

3D Printing Supply Chain

Benefits of 3D printing on the Supply Chain

  • Shorter time to market - With the influx of on-demand delivery, it is evident that consumers are making purchasing decisions on how quickly they can get gratification. More organizations will be considering 3D printing as an option to meet the needs of their consumers[14].
  • Mass customization - Along with instant gratification, consumer’s trends lead towards specialized products that uniquely suit the needs of the purchasers. Mass customization provides organizations the ability to have more made to order products and on-demand production. At one extreme, this means on-demand production can be done for single batch production. On another side, this means that the mass market will see more variety in their consumer goods.
  • Localization - 3d printing leads to more localization of manufacturing and production because 3d printers can be located in communities and homes. Consumers will have more control over the supplies use in their products and the people who produce them. With localization, the notion of “out of sight, out of mind” comes to the forefront and more individuals will start noticing if their products are produced unethically. In addition, 3D printing has the ability to greatly impact developing communities. Many developing areas lack the physical and communications infrastructure to develop efficient supply chains. It is estimated that logistics account for 60-80% of humanitarian aid which makes unscheduled and emergent deliveries expensive and challenging to fulfill [15]. Non-profit organizations like Field Ready are making a difference in areas such as:
    • Haiti – To develop effective disaster relief supply chains
    • Nepal – To decrease their reliance on international support (which can be often delayed due to the changing political climate) [16]
  • Reduced Waste
    • From manufacturing - As 3D printing allows for greater precision, materials will be used more efficiently. For example, leftover substrate powder can be repurposed for the next project as opposed to traditional manufacturing where a substantial amount of raw material can go to waste. [17]
    • From transportation - In addition to production, as manufacturing moves closer to consumers, there is a decrease in transportation waste. In the form of packaging as well as emissions. [18]
    • From over-production - As on demand production becomes more viable with 3d printing, organizations will find it financially feasible to move towards a just-in-time production model and to hold fewer products on shelves. This leads to fewer discontinued inventories that often end of in landfills. [19]

Negative Implications of 3D Printing on the Supply Chain

  • Loss of Jobs - Additive manufacturing eliminates repetitive production tasks, so workers would need a higher level of skills to make more sophisticated goods. Factory jobs could dwindle as the focus shifts to design and engineering, logistics and IT. [20]
  • Localization - Both a benefit and a concern with the future of 3D printing. With fewer manufacturing agents and more products being creating by the consumer, there are increasing risks associated. These risks include: unregulated products, potentially harmful products, and copyright infringements.

Requirements for True Disruption

Our thoughts on what factors need to be changed before 3D printing can be truly disruptive.

  • Faster and cheaper printers
  • Multi-material printers
  • Improved ease of use
  • Complete system manufacturing

Future of 3D Printing

Beginning with replication of simple consumer products to the reconstruction of human organs, pharmaceutical drugs, and many other life-changing advancements. There will be many changes in the supply chain because as 3D printing becomes more and more enhanced, companies and manufacturers will begin to use 3D printing instead of purchasing from elsewhere and become vertically integrated. This will cause major changes on how we see companies operating and can have positive and negative implications. The industries we see that will be most impacted are:

Medical / Healthcare

The use of 3D printed tissues and organs for testings will be wide spread and enhance their ability to try different forms of procedures and drugs to find cures faster and easier and thus eliminating all forms of animal testing. It will also allow better ability to train medical professionals on different cases and even teach other doctors their medical practices. The ability to get help for unfamiliar surgeries and problems that may arise can be solved at a greater ease. All this could enhance collaboration of doctors throughout the world to solve diseases that were deemed incurable.


The ability for rapid prototyping is largely beneficial to this industry because of the testings they can create at a much lower price in creating new models of cars. They can see which parts they can print out and even sell these spare parts and components that may not be easily made. As well, without the reliance on certain suppliers they can now create without all the product they need in that region instead of waiting to ship it from all over the world.


As we can currently see there will be many issues with patents and copyrights but that will be an ongoing issue in this case due to the ability of file sharing nowadays. Even with files taken down there will always be a copy somewhere and for consumer products it will be hard to restrict. But having the ability to 3D print everything will enable highly customised products like home decorations, broken parts, and anything you can imagine to be created easily. Even for objects that no long are on sale or small parts that are never even thought of to be sold separately. Having a 3D printer will allow all of those problems to be easily solved and at a lower cost than purchasing a completely new product.

3D printing has come a long way from where it has began in 1981 but it clearly has shown to have the ability to create even more advancements then we see presently.


  1. http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1196989
  2. http://www.wired.com/2014/12/dress-made-3-d-printed-plastic-flows-like-fabric/
  3. http://sneakernews.com/2016/01/06/is-the-adidas-futurecraft-3d-printed-shoe-the-most-anticipated-release-of-2016/
  4. https://localmotors.com/3d-printed-car/
  5. http://www.cbc.ca/news/trending/3d-printing-new-jaw-cancer-1.3663883
  6. https://3dprint.com/124954/3d-printed-heart-saves-baby/
  7. http://3dprintingindustry.com/news/us-armys-3d-printed-skin-near-ready-clinical-trials-30170/
  8. https://3dprint.com/133438/3d-bioprinting-where-are-we/
  9. https://www.ted.com/talks/lee_cronin_print_your_own_medicine?language=en
  10. https://store.makerbot.com/digitizer
  11. https://www.3dhubs.com/vancouver
  12. https://rpl.yourlibrary.ca/learning_hub/rpl3d
  13. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB857
  14. http://www.industryweek.com/supply-chain/how-3-d-printing-could-disrupt-your-supply-chain
  15. http://odihpn.org/magazine/3d-printing-humanitarian-supplies-in-the-field/
  16. http://www.fieldready.org/
  17. http://www.usanfranonline.com/resources/supply-chain-management/3d-printing-and-its-impact-on-the-supply-chain/#.V5rkcLgrLRY
  18. http://www.sdcexec.com/blog/12062956/five-ways-3d-printing-is-transforming-the-supply-chain
  19. http://www.techrepublic.com/article/10-industries-3d-printing-will-disrupt-or-decimate/
  20. http://www.usanfranonline.com/resources/supply-chain-management/3d-printing-and-its-impact-on-the-supply-chain/#.V5rkcLgrLRY
Personal tools