3D Printing Fall 2014

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3-D printing is the creation of three-dimensional objects from a digital file. The most common methods used for 3-D Printing are additive and subtractive manufacturing.



The process of creating a 3-D printed object can be generalized into two steps. Modelling the object in a computer program, and printing it using the appropriate printing method.

1. Modelling

A 3-D printed object must first be modelled using a computer software prior to printing. The model can be created from scratch or it can be imported from a 3-D scanner. Both scanned models and user created models can be modified to adjust for dimensions, color, and materials used for production.

2. Printing

There are a variety of methods for printing 3-D objects. The most popular being additive manufacturing and subtractive manufacturing. The process chosen depends on the type of 3-D printer you're using, the materials available, or the complexity of the design.

Additive Manufacturing Method

Additive Manufacturing [1] involves fusing layers of the materials used together to form the structure of the 3-D printed object. The layers start at the bottom and each subsequent layer would be added on top of the previous layer, much like a cross section. Typical materials used for this type of 3-D printing would be plastics or bio-materials. A major benefit for this method is that it can easily create detailed innards of the object.

Bio-printing[2] is an advanced version of the additive manufacturing method. It involves using living tissue as its primary input material.

Subtractive Manufacturing Method

The Subtractive Manufacturing Method [3] involves removing layers of material from a larger source. This method is more popular with metals as its source material and is generally used for simple designs with non-hollow innards.

Timeline [4]

1983 - Charles Hull developed Stereolithography(SLA) technology that could create physical objects from a CAM/CAM file. Stereolithography works by by solidifying photopolymer resin one layer at time from the bottom up until the object is complete. This process is now known more commonly as additive manufacturing.

1986 - Selective Laser Printing(SLS), a technique using layers of powdered materials to create the desired object was invented. The first commercial 3-D printer using SLA technology was developed.

1988 - Fused Deposition Modeling(FDM), a technique that works by heating and extruding thermoplastic filament was developed. This is the most common 3-D printing technique used today.

1999 - Wake Forest University successfully Bio-printed and transplanted a human bladder.

2002 - Wake Forest University starts research to Bio-print a kidney.

2007 - Shapeways, an online 3-D printing service launched.

2010 - 3-D Printed blood vessels.

2010 - First 3-D printed car.

2011 - First 3-D printed aircraft.

2014 - 3-D printed Exoskeleton, food, facial parts, drones.




Youtube Giant Chinese 3D printer builds 10 houses in just 1 day

Winsun, a Chinese company, has began producing 3-D printed houses. This method requires an industrial sized 3-D printer as it produces an entire house in one go. It can use cement or other locally found grounded rocks mixed with bonding agents as the material. Each house is estimated to cost only $5000.00 USD to produce, with the ability to print up to ten houses per day. This proof of concept is being expanded into Venice and New York in 2014 as more companies are looking to take advantage of this new technology.

This technology can have a huge impact on the housing industry in poorer countries or in rural areas. It allows for a low cost and quick alternative to traditional housing. House printing is still in its early stages and could evolve to more customized and luxurious housing. [1]


Youtube 3D-printed Car by Local Motors - The Strati

The first 3-D printed car was Urbee[1] designed in 2010. Urbee featured 3-D printed chassis and windows, with the rest of the parts manufactured traditionally. As most cars have between 5,000 to 6,000 parts, it is not yet feasible to print the entire car.

A more recent "3-D Printed" electric car was designed by Localmotors[2]in 2014. It cuts the production time for each car down to only 44 hours, and only contains 49 parts. It has a range of 62 miles per charge and has a top speed of 50mph.

Due to regulations, Local Motor's 3-D printed car is not legally allowed to be driven on the streets until at least 2015.

Spare Parts

One of 3-D printing's most practical uses would be the production of spare parts. Department stores like Ikea or car dealerships could utilize 3-D printers to manufacture spare parts as needed when the customers request them. This allows the stores to keep less inventory and always have the desired parts on demand. It would also reduce many redundant activities in today's supply chain, leading to lower costs accumulated and faster production of end products.


Example of a 3D Dessert

3-D currently only has a few uses in the food industry. Current applications include printing of chocolates, pancakes, and other deserts. The printers can apply beautiful and complex designs to the food, but it lacks the speed and efficiency of traditional methods. [3]



3D printed organ

3-D printed organs provides a new frontier for the medical field. Doctors would be able to 3-D print organs from the patient's stem cells, which means that the patient's body would not reject the transplant, as it is created using their own cells. This could save countless lives as currently people can have wait periods of years to find a suitable donor. 3-D printed organs can drastically reduce the wait time needed.


The prosthetics industry has seen huge growth with the introduction of 3-D printers. Users are able to print out customized designs that suits their style for their prosthetic limbs. The prosthetics themselves can be 3-D printed using sturdier materials. The costs for the 3-D printed limbs are magnitudes cheaper than their traditional counterparts, with prices of only $50 for a plastic hand, where as commercial ones would cost between $30,000 to $50,000. [4]

3D printed arm brace


Dentists are able to make use of 3-D printers frequently in their practices. They are able to produce crowns, moulds, and stone models that are customized to their patient's mouth. Having a 3D printer would allow dentists to do these procedures in house rather than outsourcing it to a lab. This would in turn, reduce the patient's wait time and costs for getting this type of work done.[5]

3D printed mould



Youtube 3D printed Meat

Modern Meadow has taken Bio-printing to the agriculture industry. By using the stem cells of a cow, scientists have been able to produce lab grown leather and meat. It currently takes 45 days to produce one square foot of leather, which is much faster than raising a cow for 3 years.

Once perfected, lab grown meats would be a massive benefit for producers. Not only would more people be more inclined to eat meat as animals would no longer be harmed in the process, the producers would save a ton of money as they would no longer have to shelter, feed, and raise the animals for butchering.[1]

Farm Bot

Farm Bot is a next generation farming equipment that applies the concept of 3-D printing to the farmlands. When set up over the plot of land, Farm Bot is able to dig holes, inject seeds, water, and monitor the growth of the produce. [2] Farmers would also be able to 3-D print any necessary tools that needs to be replaced without going through the hassle of travelling to a department store.


The International space station printed its first part on November 25, 2014 by Mike Snyder. Mike Synder designed and built the space capable 3-D printer. This technology will allow future astronauts to manufacture supplies and parts without on the space station without taking up as much valuable room on supply ships. [3]


With the introduction of 3-D printing, a few online retailers have set up a service to allow customers to purchase 3-D printed goods and have it shipped to the consumer. Companies like Shapeways lets users set up shop by upload their own design and let other users purchase the prints. However, the prices are quite high, with a phone stand costing $28.92, and is generally only worth it if one does not have access to their own 3-D printer.[4]


Impact of 3D Printing

3D printing technology has been widely applied into many industries, which leads to huge impact on the economy, society, and environment.

Economic Impact

3D printing technology allows faster production of unique-shaped product. The unique- shaped shoes, the liquid metal car, and human organs, they are hard to produce and assemble by conventional production methods, but easier and faster to produce by 3D printing technology without involving too much human resources. Since 3D printers can print out unusual-shaped products, it is less time consuming for business to produce the unique-shaped products. This encourages creation of designers and business to design new products, which benefit both the business and the society.

Unique-Shaped Shoes
Liquid metal car

With 3D printing, business can make prototypes easily without significant investment cost. Since 3D printing promotes small-scale production, businesses do not need to set up a complicated production line to make prototypes. 3D printing technology supports the construction of rapid prototyping, which is a group of techniques used to quickly fabricate a scale model of a physical part or assembly using three-dimensional computer aided design data. It has contributed to almost all engineering areas, including mechanical, materials, industrial, aerospace, electrical and most recently biomedical engineering [1].

It is predicted that 3D printing will cause major disruptions in the global economy by 2025. The industry is reducing the cost of entry into markets, allowing niche business to pop up everywhere. As the systems become cheaper, more companies will adopt the technology, and it will bring about new product development cycles [2]. Since 3D printing is a great technology for local production, there is huge potential for benefit in developing countries that are disconnected from global supply chain, as they can produce the products by their own [3]. This will lead to a change in the supply chain structure.

In the traditional supply chain, raw materials first go to the manufacture. The finished products are first delivered to wholesaler, and then, to different shops, and finally, go into the hands of customers. However, with the 3D printing diffused supply chain, raw materials first go to the printer, and then, go to the consumers directly. This is because 3D printing promotes customized production and just in time manufacturing. Business printed out what the consumers ordered, instead of storing inventories. Therefore, business will need much less storage room for inventories [4]. However, since there are two processes eliminated from the supply chain, it will result in unemployment of related jobs. This might hit many developing countries severely, which takes time to overcome.

3D printing diffused supply chain
Traditional Supply Chain

Social Impact

There will be no more waste of plastic and metal. 3D printing is a technology of additive manufacturing that the products are built layer upon layer in the printing process; only the raw material that is necessary to create the products is used [5]. Moreover, plastic and metal can be easily recycled. For business, it reduces the raw material cost. For individual usage of small-scale 3D printing, customers do not need to buy plastic purposely, because they can use plastic recycled form plastic bottles. This small machine can recycle plastics for individual use. It works like a shredder; if you put plastic bottles into the machine, it will give you plastic material that can be used in a 3D printer.

Plastic Recycle Machine

Environment Impact

3D printing also has large environmental impact. With 3D printing technology, products can be made locally and there will be less transportation for products. Shipping spare parts and products from one country to another could potentially become obsolete, as the spare parts might possibly be 3D printed on site [6]. There will be less wasted materials because plastics and metal can be easily recycled. There will be less unsold products as businesses only produce what customers ordered without storing inventories. Consumers will have more lifetime of the products because plastic and metal have a longer lifespan compared to other materials. Besides, parts of 3D printing products can be easily replaced.

Issues of 3D Printing

Environmental Issue

However, there are still some environmental issues associated with 3D printing. First, 3D printing technology itself also uses lots of energy. It uses 50-100 times more energy compared to traditional production of plastic products [7]. Emissions from 3D printing can be dangerous. Emissions of 3D printers are similar with cigarettes, and it is harmful to human health [8]. For business, is will be an extra cost to deal with the emissions. Moreover, there are ongoing movements in the world calling for the reduced use of plastic, since plastic is harmful to the environment if not recycled properly. However, 3D printing use plastic mostly, and some of the products are disposed without recycling, which has negative impact to the environment [9]. Even though the plastic and mental can be recycled, the recycling process of plastic and metal needs huge amount of energy. There is also argument that 3D printing technology might not be necessarily less wasteful. The material usage is highly depends on the model of 3D printers. Inkjet printer waste 40% of its ink [10]. Besides, not all materials are recyclable, because some products still require supporting products that are not recyclable.

Intellectual property threats

3D Printing Helmet

Intellectual property threats are also big issues of 3D printing. Some businesses produce the products by grabbing others’ unpatented designs, or make some small changes on patented designs. Individuals using 3D printing to print others’ design at home for self-usage will not be noticed by the owner of the patent. These will be a benefit lost for patent owners. There is also responsibility issue of 3D printing. For example, who is responsible if there is a motorbike accident in which the biker was wearing a 3D printed helmet? The patent holder or the one who print out the helmet? The case will be more complicated if the helmet is printed without permission from the patent holder. Therefore, there are still many regulations need to be set for this part.[11]
Over the past decade, we've seen intellectual property rights come to the forefront in a big way for the music, film, and television industries. Piracy is a real concern for content creators since the design of 3D printed products can be copied. Because the "blueprint" files used in 3D printing are digital, without any sort of protective DRM they can be easily duplicated and shared.

Food Safety Issues[12]

With the help of a 3D printer, anyone can print a spoon or a fork, but the plastic used for this printing is not free of toxins. Moreover, there are free spaces in 3D printers where bacterial growth can take place. Therefore, food safety concerns raised. Truly safe kitchenware can only be produced by machines that are approved by the FDA. 3D ceramics are currently the only food-safe 3D-printed material that is very heat resistant (up to 600°C), recyclable.

3D Printed Utensils

Gun Control Issue

There is also the gun control issue that threats public safety. For a simple-structured gun, all its part can be printed by a 3D printer, and can be easily assembled by individuals. Only some small parts of the gun are not plastic, which makes the gun very hard to detect. The Undetectable Firearms Act has banned all guns that cannot be detected by scanners.[12]

Trends to Come in 3D Printing

Transforming the Concepts of Manufacturing [13]

3D printing as a rapid prototyping technology is aggressively transforming manufacturing industries, posing an intensive threat to conventional approaches. Despite a costly investment, manufacturers continue to adopt 3D printing as a means to evaluate the product design effectively. The growing usage proliferation of 3D printing again poses a threat to traditional manufacturing approaches. 3D printing is about to bring a profound change in manufacturing and promote innovation without the intervention of tools. The definition of mass production might change from manufacturing identical parts in numbers to producing numbers of individual customized parts rapidly.

Cost [11]

Currently, the cost of 3D printing is still too high to be practical for most consumer applications, as the price of raw materials and high-end printers is simply too high to be feasible for home-users.
Cost is a two pronged problem at this stage in the industry's maturation. However, the natural for a growth industry is that prices will stabilize and continue to drop as the technology becomes more and more engrained. As the 3D printing technology being more matured, there is a positive sign that the prices of hobbyist printer kits beginning to fall under $1000, and even though those low-end offerings are limited in their utility.

Material Limitations [11]

Popular materials used in 3D printing now are plastics, certain metals, and ceramics, the range of material types that can't yet be printed is extensive and notable.
However, new materials is continue to be found for 3D printing. For example, fresh ingredients can be used by FOODINI that is the first 3D food printer kitchen appliance to make healthier versions of the foods you are accustomed to and tailor them to your tastes and needs.


Using cement materials in 3D printing for construction is also a new innovation. Just few months ago, a Minnesotan man builds the world's first 3D printed concrete castle in his own backyard by using cement material.

Innovation in materials is one of the most exciting areas of 3D printing, and the most likely to drive its large scale acceptance among consumers.


Mass Customization[1]

The next evolution of 3-D printing would be mass customization, where customers get to contribute to the design process of a product like a necklace, shoes, headphones or a toy. By printing one piece at a time, it can fit the buyer’s identity, shape or preference, and their input becomes part of the creation process.
Unlike traditional factories, which are optimized for making large identity quantities of products and so have minimum orders and set-up costs, 3-D printers create individual objects by layering material on top of itself.

The Rise of Printing as A Service [2]

Many people are curious about 3D printing, but are hesitant to invest the significant capital required to buy a 3D printer of their own. This growing population will be well-met by companies that offer 3D printing as a service. Shapeways that is a website that offers a wide range of 3D printing options online is a good example to show the success in the market with venture capital investors. Companies like this is expected to grow as a result of a public that is becoming more familiar with the notion of 3D printing, and is eager for an incremental way to incorporate 3D printing into their lives.


Consumer Goods

Another direction that 3D printing is heading in is consumer goods. Both mass customizations and materials innovation leads 3D printing become the commodity. By changing the traditional mass production, 3D printing allow users print their own designs or ideas.
As home 3D printer is increasingly used by users in the daily life, such as making toys children want, 3D printing is also heading in the direction of consumer goods, because of the advanced features that are mass customizations and combinations of materials.
3D printer also consumed by US Army to print food on demand, from pasta to pizza, and tailor its nutritional content to an individual soldier’s needs. 3D printer enable to feed thousands of soldiers in the wilderness of a far-flung battlefield. Army would print what they want and eliminate wasted food with 3D printer, it satisfied that food served to Army personnel is unspoiled, nutritious, and reasonably tasty.[3]

Disruptive Technology

It takes time for a technology to truly be disruptive. Following are major impacts the 3D printing technology will have on businesses, consumers, and the global economy and society.

Supply Chain Impacts[4]

The traditional supply chain model have constraints which are the efficiencies of mass production, the need for low-cost, high-volume assembly workers, real estate to house each stage of the process and so on.

traditional supply chain

3-D manufacturing eliminates those constraints.3-D printing cutting out at least half of the supply chain in a single blow by abolishing the need for high volume production facilities and low level assembly workers. It is able to take place almost anywhere at the same cost, so it is no longer efficient to ship products across the globe to get to the customer when manufacturing. This not only affects the manufacturing facility, but the distribution warehouse and trucking.

traditional supply chain

Disrupting traditional manufacturing [5]

With the adoption of large-scale printers and rapidly evolving technology to produce parts faster, many industries are disrupted by 3D printing. For example, any food that exists in liquid or powder form can be 3D printed. The machinery for the military also can be customized quickly by 3D printing. In addition, home 3D printers and open source design will change the created way of toys for children. As well, automotive industry can benefit from 3D printing by efficiently printing parts.

Consumer Goods[5]

Home 3D printers are becoming smaller and more affordable, rather than ordering goods and waiting for them to be shipped, people be able to print custom jewelry, household goods, toys, and tools to whatever size, shape, or color they want, even make replacement parts right at home.

Environmental impacts[6]

Although 3D printing lessens waste in many ways comparing to traditional manufacturing, such as fewer wasted materials, longer life spans, less transport and fewer unsold products, an inkjet 3D printer wastes 40 to 45 percent of its ink according researches online. And if a printer isn't turned off or unplugged, it uses an excessive amount of electricity. Manufacturers will need to figure out how to improve these issues as the printers become more accessible. In addition, the emissions from desktop 3D printers are similar to burning a cigarette or cooking on a gas or electric stove.

Impacts on the global economy[5]

As the systems become cheaper, more companies will adopt the technology and product creation focus on client feedback and customer-centered design.3D printing will bring about new product development cycles by reducing the cost of entry into markets and allowing very niche businesses to pop up everywhere.

Intellectual property threats[5]

Sharing 3D printing schematics on websites like Thingiverse and Shapeways are unpatented, so they can be copied repeatedly and sold by anyone. Most of the designs Expensive or designer objects can also be reverse-engineered or replicated and sold at a cheaper price. The free designs are bound to cause issues with intellectual property as 3D printing becomes more mainstream.

Ethical Issues

As bioprinting becomes the fast growing areas of 3D printing, development of complex organs or any living tissues is destined to turn into a big ethical issues. Similar to the cloning of animals – and possibly humans, in the future – the printing of organs produces significant ethical issues.[7] In addition, researchers want to revolutionize the pharmaceutical industry by allowing patients to print their own medicine with a chemical blueprint they get from the pharmacy.[6]

Future: 4D Printing

What is 4D printing?

The idea is this: You used 3-D printers to print out smart materials that can shape or assemble themselves.[8]

How it works?

The 4D printing process (with the 4th dimension being self-assembly over time) involves the use of materials that change their shape in response to movement or environmental factors, such as the presence of water, air, and/or temperature changes.[9]


Disruptive technology [1]

4-D printing, an extension of three-dimensional printing, has the potential to change the face of construction and manufacturing and could make it easier to build in extreme environments (including space or other planets) where construction is dangerous or expensive.
Although it is superior to conventional manufacturing techniques in terms of performance, efficiency and quality, and can create new products with increased capabilities, it will not become a totally disruptive technology immediately since 4D printing technology is in an early stage of development.
After a few years of mass commercialization, it may disrupt the manufacturing industries as the cost of employing 4D printing technology will decrease, prompting several companies across a wide range of industries to integrate this technology into their manufacturing systems.

Our Thoughts of Benefits for Consumers and Business [2]

Cheap Manufacturing

As 3D printing is increasingly being used to replace some of traditional manufacturing, cost savings is achieved for manufacturing companies through lower shipping and packaging costs related to overseas suppliers, less human resource expense and cheaper raw materials sometimes.

Quick Production

With 3D printing, company can manufacture most objects in a matter of hours. However, it may take up to several days or even weeks by using classical manufacturing methods.

Less Waste

According to research, up to 90% of material is being cut away for some aircraft makers by using 3D printing. All the similar objects can be produced with less energy and minimum waste by applying 3D printing to print finished products.

Ability to Combine Materials

Many companies now can offer tens of different materials with different finishes giving various strengths and temperature resistance of combinations of metal, ceramics or glass.

New Shapes and Structures

Mass customizations feature enables 3D printing technology to create complex figures that may limited by using traditional manufacturing methods. It gives designers more spaces to image more fantastic shapes or structures and assembly by only pushing the button.


  1. defence Web. (2014, August 27). 4D printing a disruptive technology - report. Retrieved from http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=36015:4d-printing-a-disruptive-technology-report&catid=90:science-a-defence-technology&Itemid=204[1]
  2. Tamarjan, D. (2012, June 26). 9 Benefits of 3D Printing. Retrieved from http://augmentedtomorrow.com/9-benefits-3d-printing/[2]
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