3D Printing the Sequel Fall 2015

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What is 3D Printing

3D Printing an Eiffel Tower

3D Printing is a prototyping process in which a real three dimensional object is created from a 3D design via additive manufacturing. The design is created in CAD and saved in STL format and then sent to a 3D printer. The 3D printer then prints out the design layer by layer until it forms the final real object. 3D printers bridge the gap between the digital and the physical world.

3D Printing Process

  1. Create a design in CAD
  2. Send your design to a 3D printer
  3. Print the final physical object



Chuck Hall
  • 1984 - created by Charles Hull with the invention of stereolithography (SLA), a printing process allowing user to print 3D objects from digital data.
  • 1986 - Hall patented the SLA process and established the company 3D Systems. Later that year the first 3D printer was invented, called the Stereolithography Apparatus.
  • 1988 - the SLA-250 was invented by 3D Systems which would become the first commercial 3D Printer
  • 1989 - the fused deposition modeling (FDM) technique was invented by the co-founder of Stratasys, S. Scott Crump and Lisa Crump, which enabled 3D printers to print out objects layer by layer.

1990s [2]


The 1990s is when 3D printing took off on a more commercial basis.

  • 1992 - SLA-250 commercial 3D printer became available publicly
  • 1992 - FDM patent given to Stratasys which sold their first FDM-based machine the '3D Modeler'
  • 1993 - Professor Michael Chima and Emanuel Sachs from MIT invented and patented what we now refer to as 3D Printing, allowing the use of other materials such as plastic and metal
  • 1996 - more companies began releasing their versions of commercial 3D printers, such as 3D Systems, Stratasys, and Z Corporation.

Early 2000s [3]

In the early 2000s, 3D printers were becoming more commonly used.

  • 2005 - Z Corporation launched the first high definition color 3D printer
  • 2006 - Objet released its own version that could print objects made out of multiple materials
  • 2006 - The Fab@Home project from Cornell developed the first open-sourced 3D printer based on syringe drive technology, which made all plans and software available for free
  • 2008 - RepRap released Darwin – a self-replicating 3D printer, capable of manufacturing over 50% of its own parts

Late 2000s [4]


In the late 2000s, 3D printing was used more commonly in other industries. Full houses are being 3D printed, along with guns, jewelry, and other instruments. 3D printers are increasingly becoming common household products as they are available and more affordable prices than ever before.

  • 2010 - the world’s first blood vessel was printed by Organovo Holdings Inc.
  • 2010 - Urbee, the first ever car was 3D printed (including all the interior and exterior materials) by Stratasys
  • 2011 - Shapeways and Continuum Fashion announced the first 3D printed bikini; the first 3D Chocolate Printer created in the UK
  • 2014 - Winsun 3D prints 10 houses in one day - livable, earthquake-proof and fireproof - for less than $5000 each [5]

3D Printing Methods

  • Additive Manufacturing
The fusing together of layers of material in order to form the 3D object. This method is preferred for complex parts and designs as the part is grown layer-by-layer and can be extremely detailed. [6]
  • Subtractive Manufacturing
The removal of excess layers from a large source in order to achieve the final desired 3D object. This process is less efficient due to the time and cost necessary to create detailed parts. This method is recommended for parts intended for long-term or high-stress use. [7]

Fused Deposition Modeling

This process involves melting a plastic filament then depositing the plastic in layers until it fills up the final physical model. There are two types of plastics used: ABS, which is sturdy and made from oil-based resources, and PLA, which is biodegradable and made from plant-based resources. [8] This process is being used at NASA's International Space Station because the filament is easy to control in zero-gravity. Earlier this year (2015) Phase 1 of NASA's '3D Printing in Zero-G Project' successfully returned 21 pieces 3D printed in space [9]


These machines use a laser in order to cure a resin and built the model prototype layer by layer. This model must use supporters to hold up the parts, which must then be removed from the part. This is another example of additive manufacturing. [10]

Selective Laser Sintering

This process uses lasers in order to sinter powdered metal, thus binding the powder together to create one solid structure. As soon as each layer is sintered together, the structure drops and the next layer is built on top of it. [11]

CNC Machining

This is an example of subtractive manufacturing in which materials are removed from a large block of material by a rotating cutting tool. The various cutting tool shapes include square, rounded, and angled thus allowing for wider selection of shapes and geometries. Common materials used in this technique include metals, plastics, foam, and composites [12].

Gartner's 2015 Hype Cycle

2015 Hype Cycle 2015 3D Printing Hype Cycle

3D Printing Giants

Pie Chart of 3D Printing Locations

Percentage share of the worldwide 3D Printing Industry Market [13]:

  1. U.S.A – 38%
  2. Japan – 9.4%
  3. Germany – 9.1%
  4. China – 8.8%
  5. United Kingdom – 4.3%
  6. Italy – 3.5%
  7. France – 3.3%
  8. South Korea – 2.5%

The remaining figure is shared by countries where 3D printing is still in the infancy stage.



3D printing for medical applications has been around since the early 2000s when Dr. Thomas Boland experimented with printing cells. He used a regular Lexmark printer and replaced the ink in the cartridge with collagen. While scientists had already modified traditional printers to print DNA fragments, Boland's idea eventually led to a patent being filed for printing cells in 2003.[14] Since then, the use of 3D printing for medical applications has grown significantly due to improvements in CAD modelling software, printing technology, and regenerative medicine. Tissues with blood vessels, bones, skin, prosthetics, ears, and some organs have all been created using 3D printing technology.[15] Medical applications of 3D printing can be broken down into a few broad categories including tissue and organ fabrication; creation of prosthetics, implants, and anatomical models; and pharmaceutical research regarding drug discovery and delivery. [16]

Bioprinting Tissues and Organs

3D Printed Ear

Creating tissues and organs using 3D printing technology involves the additive manufacturing process with live cells as the "ink". Traditionally, the degradation of tissues or organs due to disease, aging, or accidents requires a transplant that is both costly and hard to obtain given the shortage of organs available.[17] There is potential for 3D printing to revolutionize this process by bioprinting these replacement tissues or organs using the patient's own cells to ensure compatibility while eliminating the need for a donor. The 3D bioprinting process involves several steps:

  1. Create a blueprint of an organ with its vascular architecture;
  2. Generate a bioprinting process plan;
  3. Isolate stem cells;
  4. Differentiate the stem cells into organ-specific cells;
  5. Prepare bioink reservoirs with organ-specific cells, blood vessel cells, and support medium and load them into the printer;
  6. Bioprint; and
  7. Place the bioprinted organ in a bioreactor prior to transplantation

Tissue and organ fabrication is still considered to be in its infancy, given the rapid rate at which research is progressing. Bioprinting company Organovo is committed to transforming the future of medicine, and has successfully 3D printed kidney tissue. [18] By replicating these tissues and organs, testing can be conducted on living human cells without the myriad of ethical issues associated with animal testing. Furthermore, drugs can be tested using a patient's unique cells to determine if the drug will be successful or if another option is necessary.

Prosthetics, Implants, and Anatomical Models

X-Ray, MRI, and CT scans can easily be converted into the .stl files necessary for CAD software. This allows the unique geometries of the patient to be considered when designing and printing a 3D implant, prosthetic, or anatomical model. One of the main benefits of 3D printing for this purpose is the time saved, as validation of implants is required before they can be used clinically. The customizability of these 3D printed implants and prosthetics also saves time as it reduces the need for modifications beyond the initial model. The impact of 3D printing implants and prosthetics can already be seen in the hearing-aid manufacturing market. In the U.S., all manufacturers have switched over to an additive manufacturing process for hearing-aids due to the significant improvements over traditional methods. [19]

The use of anatomical models for both educational and surgery preparation purposes are also being used today. Each patient has a unique anatomy that requires different strategies in the event of surgery. By 3D printing a model of the patient prior to an operation, a doctor can gain a better understanding of the complex structures in the body than a traditional 2D X-Ray, MRI, or CT scan offers. In terms of education, availability and affordability are the two main factors limiting the use of cadavers, which are traditionally used in schools as the next best alternative to a live human. Inappropriate pathology further limits the use of cadavers, which could be eliminated by using 3D bioprinted models.

Pharmaceutical Drug Dosage and Delivery

The concept behind personalized medicine could become a reality with 3D printed drugs. Using 3D printing technology, drugs can be created in more advanced forms than previously possible. Medicines can be layered and more tightly packed using 3D printing, allowing for pills that are tailored to a patient's needs while improving ease of administration due to control over porosity. [20] The ability of 3D printing to customize the shape of the drug could also see improvements regarding the willingness of children to take medicine as well as the rate at which the drug is released into the system.


3D Printed Sugar Candies

As with other additive manufacturing processes, food can be created using 3D printing technology by putting the required ingredient in the cartridge that then gets deposited in 2D layers to create a three-dimensional shape. Being a transformative technology, the possibilities in terms of 3D printed food are evolving quickly. Chocolate, pizza, sugar candies, ravioli, corn chips, and chick-pea biscuits have all been created using custom printers designed to handle the various cartidges and their contents.[21] Hershey has been experimenting with a 3D printed approach to their iconic Hershey Kisses, using the technology to create unique designs that were once impossible. [22] While still in its early stages, printing food using 3D technology has significant potential when considering nutritional content and the ability to sustain humans in situations with limited access to food.


The customizability of the ingredients that go into the cartridges allows for various dishes to be created with macronutrient profiles tailored to the individual consuming the food. For elderly individuals that have trouble chewing or processing conventional food, they often end up consuming a blended mash that is both unappetizing and lacking essential nutrients. By 3D printing dishes using specific dietary requirements in forms that resemble a traditional meal, this demographic could potentially see improvements in health as a result.[23]

Future Potential

Both the U.S. army and NASA have been researching 3D printed food for the potential of providing soldiers and astronauts with meals customized to their dietary needs. The army is looking to replace the MREs that are currently provided while NASA considers the viability of 3D printing in space.[24] NASA has awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I contract to Systems and Materials Research Consultancy of Austin, Texas to study the feasibility of using additive manufacturing for making food in space. Systems and Materials Research Consultancy will conduct a study for the development of a 3D printed food system for long duration space missions. Phase I SBIR proposals are very early stage concepts that may or may not mature into actual systems. This food printing technology may result in a phase II study, which still will be several years from being tested on an actual space flight.

As NASA ventures farther into space, whether redirecting an asteroid or sending astronauts to Mars, the agency will need to make improvements in life support systems, including how to feed the crew during those long deep space missions. NASA's Advanced Food Technology program is interested in developing methods that will provide food to meet safety, acceptability, variety, and nutritional stability requirements for long exploration missions, while using the least amount of spacecraft resources and crew time. The current food system wouldn't meet the nutritional needs and five-year shelf life required for a mission to Mars or other long duration missions. Because refrigeration and freezing require significant spacecraft resources, current NASA provisions consist solely of individually prepackaged shelf stable foods, processed with technologies that degrade the micronutrients in the foods.[25]


Zhouda Group

Based out of China, the company has developed a new and unique form of 3D printed buildings, applying for 22 patents of the technology and not willing to disclose the process used. Unlike most 3D printed large structures, Zhouda’s building process does not use cement base, keeping the actual material used a secret. The buildings fabricated are capable of withstanding 9.0 magnitude earthquakes, harsh weather, and provide superior insulation, while generating negative ions. On top of all of this, the buildings are fireproof, waterproof, and corrosion-proof. Tests prove that the buildings are able to withstand 150 years of wear and tear. Total construction time is 15 days for a typical 500 square meter villa. [26]

Zhouda Zhouda Zhouda

WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co.

Based out of Shanghai, China, in 2014 the company built 10 homes in one day that were almost entirely 3D printed out of recycled concrete material. In 2015, WinSun built an entire 6-story apartment building and a livable home, thus making significant progress in the drive to 3D print livable homes. The process started with a basic CAD drawing that was fed into a massive 3D printer which then made the structure piece-by-piece. The materials used were concrete, fiberglass, sand, and a hardening agent. The building is resistant to strong earthquakes and it is self-insulating.[27]

WinSun WinSun WinSun

This has severe implications as it disrupts several industries worldwide, particularly in construction. The use of lumber will be minimized - which will also affect Canada's exports of raw lumber to China. It will also lower housing costs, as labour and material costs will be much lower thus making housing more affordable. [28]

3D Concrete Building
WinSun 3D Printed Home

Production and Prototyping



  • General Motors
General Motors built the 2014 Chevrolet Malibu by using 3D printing to prototype parts for the vehicle and thus save time. Using stereolithography, math data, and laser sintering, designers were able to build parts out of liquid resin and make improvements to the vehicle. 3D printing was used for the floor console, the front fascia design to test vehicle in wind tunnels, as well as in the sculpting of the front-seat back panels. [1]
  • Ford
Ford is currently using 3D printing to make prototypes of many parts in their vehicles, particularly cyinder heads, brake rotors, shift knobs and vents. They also employed 3D printing in the production of the Explorer and EcoBoost engines.[2]
Local Motors - 3D Printed Car
  • Local Motors
Local Motors has created a fully 3D-printed car, called the LM3D Swim. It can only go 35 miles per hour and is intended to be a car to cruise around a neighbourhood. This car is expected to be followed by a robust highway version that will go on sale in 2016 at $53,000. [3] Chief Strategy Office, Justin Fishkin asserted that their carbon-fiber-infused ABS plastic that builds in layers the structure and bodywork of the vehicle, has cut the production time from 180 hours to 44. Their digital design-and-build process is built on the concept of ‘built while you wait’ and will be able to bring vehicles to the market five times faster than the traditional auto industry and at 100 times lower the costs. [4]



  • Ducati
Ducati's Desmosedici new engine was developed in-house 80% faster by using the Fortus 3D Printer from Stratasys. This allowed them to cut their design cycle and produce higher quantities of parts at a fraction of the cost.
  • Energica Ego
Energica Eco by CRP Group in Italy is fully electric and prototyped entirely using 3D printing technology. The majority of its functional parts are 3D printed, including the covers, electronic insulators, cable clamps, front and rear fender and headlights, using laser sintering.
  • Easy Rider
TE Connectivity almost entirely 3D printed the Easy Rider motorcycle in plastic using ABS filament. It weights 113.4 kg and can support up to 181 kg, and can go only up to 24 km/h.
Renishaw & Empire Cycles 3D Printed Bike



  • Customization
Australia-based Flying Machines manufactured the F-ONE-HD, a custom bicycle made with parts 3D printed in titanium based on a person's individual measures. This allows for greater customization based on the individual riding the bike.
  • Aesthetics - Looks and Feel
Designer Ralf Holleis 3D printed the titanium lugs to create beautiful, geometrically intricate bicycle designs, particularly the VRZ-2. The VRZ is a track bike with a custom frame, created in a short period of time, 3D printed using selective laser melting followed by tin coating.
  • Lose weight: Slender and Tougher Bikes
3D printing allows for the implementation of complex geometries in order to remove as much material as possible without sacrificing the structural integrity of the bike. This is important at an industrial level as it will allow for the usage of fewer materials and less waste, thus creating products that pollute less. UK-based Renishaw along with Empire Cycles collaborated to create the world’s first 3D printed metal bike frame, resulting in a titanium frame mountain bike. that is 33% lighter than the original.
Z-2 Spacesuit

Space and Aviation

NASA’s latest Z-2 spacesuit features 3D printed parts that allow the suit to be tailored to each individual astronaut in hopes of maximizing astronaut productivity on the surface of the Red Planet. By scanning the bodies of the astronauts that will be using the suit, NASA can make sure the suit performs as designed. With the potential for 3D printers to be included on future NASA missions, this opens up the opportunity for damaged suits to be repaired onboard as opposed to waiting until they return to Earth.

In addition to the Z-2 spacesuit, NASA is experimenting with 3D printing technology for printing parts of the engine for their latest F-1 rocket, and even launched a contest to develop viable 3D printed houses for Mars.[7]

Basic Consumer Goods

3D Printed Eiffel Tower Pearl Necklace
Customized Pendant from Shapeways


Additive manufacturing with metal allows a person to create designs, shapes, and forms that would be impossible to create by conventional means. This is revolutionizing the $275 billion jewelry industry as it allows for increased creativity and rapid customization at a fraction of the time and cost.

  • American Pearl
Introduced a combination of CAD and a Solidscape T-76 3D Printer to allow shoppers to customize their own jewelry designs, cutting major time and labour costs. One of their customized, 3D printed diamond necklaces sold for $105,000 and was delivered within 4 days. This is compared to Cartier, where the necklace would retail for $250,000 on top of an extra $10,000 for customization that would take two weeks to finish. [8]
  • Shapeways
Another website that allows customers to order designs already made by others, or submit their own designs to be 3D printed and delivered to them. However, the prices are relatively high. For example, a customized polished silver pendant costs around $98.07. [9]
  • Designer Lionel Dean
Designed jewelry pieces that were entirely 3D printed out of gold as part of a project called Precious, which is a collaboration five companies, including software provider Delcam and precious metal supplier Cooksongold. They used a 3D printer called Precious M080 that is designed specifically for gold and thus no particles go unused. The designs are customizable and customers can bring in their own older jewelry which is then repurposed and turned into something new. [10]

3D Printing Gold Jewelry
New Balance 3D-printed midsole


Both Adidas and New Balance have been researching the abilities of 3D printing technology for the purpose of developing a 3D-printed shoe. In 2013, New Balance was the first athletic brand to have an athlete compete with 3D-printed spike plates, and has announced a 3D-printed midsole that allows them to achieve an optimal balance of flexibility, strength, weight, and durability.[1] Adidas has been doing the same with Futurecraft 3D, their version of a 3D-printed midsole. By having the individual run on a treadmill for a brief period, they can assess the support necessary and 3D-print a midsole that provides for a personalized experience. [2]

Other Uses

3D Printing for the Senses in Japan


  • Paleontology - reconstructing fossils
  • Archaeology - replicating ancient artifacts
  • Forensic Pathology - reconstructing bones and body parts
  • Crime Scene Investigation - reconstructing heavily damaged evidence


  • Hands on Search in Japan - integrating Internet search with 3D printing so the object searched comes out as a solid object. This is helping those visually impaired or blind to touch the objects and imagine them in their mind.

Ethical Implications


The Undetectable Firearms Act was first passed in 1988, and was most recently renewed in 2013. The Act bans firearms containing less than 105 grams of metal content. The law was originally passed as a preventative measure and did not effect any firearm available on the market.[3]

Intellectual Property

3D Printing jeopardizes Intellectual Property rights. Privately owned printers can print any file a user finds as there is no copyright protection or safeguards. people have the ability to print illegal items from home, such as low-metal firearms. [4]


Affordability and safety of medical uses of organic, 3D printed materials is a contentious issue. 3D printed body parts are likely to very expensive. Access to these treatments will either be limited to wealthier patients or cause a rise in universal healthcare costs.

Printed body parts may also prove better than their natural counterparts. This could lead to elective surgeries to increase the human body beyond its natural limit.

Issues & Concerns

3D Printing is a groundbreaking technology that is changing the world and disrupting many industries. However, there are many issues and concerns with 3D printing that are currently limiting the application of this technology.

Printer Mishaps

3D Printing Mishap

Many problems can occur while creating a 3D print. The success of each print is dependent on the following factors: [5]

  • Correct operation of the printer – Many 3D printers are not user friendly, which makes mishaps more likely.
  • Perfectly level print-bed – The 3D print must begin on a flat print-bed otherwise the structure will be lopsided.
  • Correct temperature – The plastic filament is heated to the correct temperature, and then cooled with a fan as needed.
  • Appropriate material selection for the design – Some designs will require sturdier and stiffer material than others.
  • Accuracy of CAD file – The CAD file must accurately and completely represent the intended figure.


The top at-home 3D printers range from $1000 USD to $3500 USD, while SLS 3D printers cost upwards of $180,000 depending on the size and quality of the printer. [6] However, SinterIt has released a desktop SLS 3D printer that retails for just $8000. The cost of 3D printers has been decreasing since it’s inception and will continue to become more affordable to a wider range of people. [7]

Energy Consumption

3D printing of plastics uses 50 to 100 times more energy than the traditional injection moulding manufacturing process to process an object of the same weight. SLS 3D printing uses hundreds of times more energy than metal machining or casting to produce a part of the same weight. However, this does not include the energy and costs of transporting an item from the manufacturer, through the supply chain, to the end user. [8]

A Comparison of a 3D Printed, and a Traditionally Manufactured Jet-engine Cover Hinge.

An SLS 3D printer was used to create a metal hinge for a jet engine cover for an Airbus A380 airliner that was half the weight of the original that was produced using conventional manufacturing methods. Although the initial manufacturing process used hundreds of times more energy than the traditional alternative, the energy savings from initial transport and fuel consumption of the plane over the lime time of the hinge due to the decreased weight made the 3D printed version significantly more energy efficient. [9]

Use of Plastics

Most 3D printers use plastic filament to create the models. This is counter to many people in today’s society who are trying to decrease their reliance on plastics by using reusable shopping bags and water bottles. The most common type of plastic used in 3D printers is ABS, which isn’t biodegradable and will eventually end up in landfills. Another common plastic used in 3D printers is PLA, which is made from a plant by-product and is biodegradable.


PlasticBank.org is an organization that is attempting to turn waste plastic into something of value by turning it into filament that can be used for 3D printing. The project focused on HPDE plastic, which is vary common in ocean waste.

Milk jugs can be recycled into filament for 3D printers at home using a paper shredder then feeding the material into an extruder for waste plastic such as the RecycleBot. This method uses less energy than commercial plastic recycling once transportation, mass sorting, and other factors are considered. [2]

Air Emissions

The air pollutants that are emitted from desktop 3D printers are similar to those from burning cigarettes or cooking on a gas or electric stove. Emissions from printers using PLA plastic emit 20 billion ultrafine particles per minutes while the machine is running. While emissions from ABS plastics emit 200 billion particles per minute making them far more toxic to humans.[3] These particles are inhaled into the lungs and can settle causing health problems. [4]

Bacteria Growth

3D Printed Cutlery

The 3D printing process of depositing layers of material creates small gaps that can harbour bacteria and are difficult to clean. This is a concern for many 3D printed products that come into contact with food. It can also cause problems when using 3D printing for orthodontics or medical applications.[5]


While there are plenty of incredible applications of 3D printing that have revolutionized industries, the current capabilities of desktop 3D printers are not very high. The products that are created by 3D printers are limited in size, material, colour, and by the CAD design itself. This limits there usefulness for many applications and resigns home 3D printing to enthusiasts rather than a manufacture-anything-at-home economy that many people see as the future of 3D printing.

Why 3D Printing

3D Printing has a vast amount of applications but some have more of a disruptive effect than others. In addition, current market trends are growing exponentially and the reasons to pursue 3D printing vary. Consumer benefits highlight the concepts of affordability, and accessibility. On the other hand, business benefits highlight the financial gain and efficient allocation of resources.

Economic Trends

According to Wohlers Report in 2014, there will be more than $21 billion dollars in worldwide revenue from 3D Printing by 2020. They recently made adjustments to their previous forecast in 2013, which only stated less than $10 billion in revenue by 2020. Wohlers Associates believes that this strong growth will be due to sales of personal 3D printers (less than $5000).[6]

Wohlers Worldwide Industry Chart
Gartner's Reasons to Pursue 3D Printing

Gartner conducted a study and found that the main reasons why companies are pursuing 3D printing are because of Prototyping, Product Development, and Innovation. Survey participants were 330 individuals from firms of at least 100 employees that use or plan to use 3D printing within their company. Gartner also adds that 3D technology is being used extensively in manufacturing applications. Respondents overwhelmingly felt that 3D printers would reduce costs in the supply chain, especially in R&D.[7]

Disrupting the Supply Chain
Future of USPS & 3D Printing

So what does this mean for the supply chain? In a traditional model, the manufacturer requires raw materials to assemble the products, and distributes them to wholesalers, who in turn distribute them to retail stores, and finally to the customer. With a 3D printing supply chain, raw materials instead go to the printer, then directly to the consumer. This kind of approach promotes Just-In-Time and Lean manufacturing. This eliminates stored inventories, therefore reducing the need of warehouse space. So what does that mean for warehouse businesses and the logistics industry? Interestingly enough, the U.S. Postal Service is considering turning postal processing centers into 3D printing hubs to speed up and streamline product shipments. They estimate they can generate an incremental $646 million dollars in commercial package revenue.[8]

Consumer Benefits

  • Affordability
With prosthetics, it is possible to print a 3D limb for a fraction of the cost of a conventional one. A conventional myoelectric prosthetic can cost upwards of $50,000, where an alternative named the Cyborg Beast costs only $50 in materials to produce.[9]
3D Hubs in Vancouver
  • Receive Products Sooner
Upon ordering products, they usually have to go through a logistics system to reach the recipient. This can take days to weeks for an item to arrive. Owners of 3D printers will no longer worry about these issues as they’ll be able to print items from the comfort of their homes. Those who don’t own a printer can alternatively use a local printer that is available to the public. https://www.3dhubs.com/Vancouver is a site that connects people who own printers and those who have ideas and gives them an instant quote based on their CAD file. This idea of middle-manning in similar to other 'uberfied' companies such as Airbnb and StubHub.
  • Smaller Carbon Footprint
By printing items locally, it saves freight costs and emissions to the environment and reduces the carbon footprint. In a supply chain, there is typically 5 stages of transport involved as noted in the diagram above. Using a 3D printing cuts out all or most of these stages. The additive process also prevents waste of materials that commonly end-up in landfills or worse places. There are printers like the Filabot that allow people to put their used plastic bottles into the machine and print new items made out of that bottle. [10]
  • Customization
The idea of creating anything you want has never been more real. The ability to print intricate designs allows people to create items that are tailored specifically to their needs, tastes, and preferences. The only limitation is your mind.
  • More Accessible
Lastly, by having a 3D printer, it allows consumers access to products they otherwise wouldn’t have or would be hard to get. This can save people in remote communities from having to travel to get something or have it sent by mail. With models of projects being shared online, there is global inter-connectivity and access to thousands of designs.

Business Benefits

  • Efficient Use of Resources
With 3D printers, companies save money with R&D costs for a new product. It also eliminates the need for labour along the assembly line.[11]
  • Less Waste
By creating a Just-In-Time business model, companies are able to create less waste and inventory of products they don’t need. Using additive manufacturing, a company can save material by adding layers until a product is complete, in contrast to traditional methods which are subtractive, and create waste. For example when building a wooden chair, you never just use one 2-by-4 of wood. After it’s made there will be scraps and sawdust left over.[12]
  • Saves Time
By skipping the assembly line process, manufacturing becomes a lot more time efficient. As shown in the example with printing houses, a shorter production time results in more product being made more efficiently.
  • Less Risk
There is also less risk for companies trying out a new product. Rather than having to invest in new machinery and equipment, companies are able to create products in small batches to test out.
  • Making the Impossible Possible
The last breakthrough of 3D printers allows companies to create things which were previously thought impossible.

7 Things That Were Previously Impossible[13]

  • Lighter, Stronger Aircraft
  • Molecular Modelling
  • 3D Copies of Internal Organs
  • Orthodontic Molds
  • Personalized Surgical Procedures
  • Customized Car Parts
  • Bioprinting Replacement Parts

GE Printed Jet Engine Molecule-Making 3D Printer CT Scan 3D Printed Baby Orthodesk Printed Mold Heart & Stent Model 3D Printed Steering Wheel 3D Printed Cartilage

Future of 3D Printing [14]

  1. Custom Production Materials

    The ability to customize the materials produced will be transforming several industries, particularly healthcare. Doctors are already using 3D printers to create customized knee replacements. The idea behind customizing the production material is to allow for the integration of medication and antibiotics in the material itself that will release and heal the patient over time. Dr. Daniel Stolyarov is currently experimenting with 3D printing using Graphene, a substance 100 times stronger than steel, which may make bulletproof suits a reality.

  2. Nanotechnology

    3D nano-printing would allow for faster prototyping of micro and nano structures, thus making nanofabrication an economically viable concept faster. For example, batteries the size of a grain of sand could be used in the future to power compact electronics or miniature medical devices.

  3. Localized Production

    The ability to produce our own consumer goods is not far behind. It will be more affordable, efficient, and convenient to simply 3D print any household needs and wants. For example, if a part of your dishwasher has broken you could simply 3D print it at a neighbourhood commercial 3D printer. The effect of localized commercial production will dramatically decrease or even eliminate supply chains in the future.

  4. 4D Printing

    4D printing refers to a fourth dimension where an object can self-assemble or change shape automatically when it encounters a change in its environment, such as moisture or temperature. For example, 3D printing construction bricks that only reach their full weight and structure after water has been added. Or sneakers that grow cleats when walking on grass, or become waterproof when it beings to rain. This technology is in process at MIT and has wide-ranging implications for both industries and consumers.

4D Printing - Objects Changing Underwater


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