Although the concept of 3D printing has been around since the late 1970s, only recently have 3D printers become more affordable and accessible. An increased interest in 3D printing has ensued over the years, and the technology now reaches industrial and consumer markets alike.

For those who are just learning about this technology, 3D printing is the process of making a three-dimensional structure from a digital model. Components required for printing a 3D object include a computer, 3D design software, a 3D printer, and 3D materials.

The typical process of 3D printing begins by designing a 3D blueprint of an object through the computer software. The next step is sending that file to a 3D printer, which proceeds to print the item. This is executed by making consecutive layers with the selected material from the bottom-up, until the object is completed.

3D printing has a wide array of applications. Two brothers started Pixel 3D to create and manufacture their own 3D printed objects sold at their Etsy shop. The world’s first 3D printed metal handgun was made and successfully tested by Solid Concepts in Austin, TX. In the fashion industry, 3D printed lingerie made its debut down the runway for Victoria’s Secret. In terms of renewable energy, the company Printrbot donated their own 3D printers to Village Energy in Uganda to help create solar products that power a lamp and charge a cell phone. In the medical industry, an 83-year-old woman is the first to have a custom 3D printed jaw transplant. In terms of biotechnology, 3D printing becomes ‘bio-printing’ whereas the 3D material is not artificial but actual living human cells.

In politics, hype surrounding 3D printing is on the rise. According to The Economist, the emergence of 3D printing technology is at the forefront of “a third industrial revolution.” President Obama has supported the industrial advancement of 3D printing by establishing the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership in 2011 as a “national effort to secure US leadership in the emerging technologies that will create high-quality manufacturing jobs and enhance America’s global competitiveness.”

In his 2013 State of the Union Address, Obama renewed the call to support 3D printing technology by asking Congress to authorize a $1 billion investment to assemble a network of up to 15 manufacturing innovation institutes. Five months later, Obama further proposed the creation of up to 45 new institutes over the next 10 years.

During his speech Obama declared, “3D printing has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.” The company Makerbot responded to the speech by launching Makerbot Academy with “an educational mission to put a MakerBot Desktop 3D Printer in every school in the United States of America.” At the London 3D Printshow, a digital artist responded by revealing his voice sculpture, called “Next Industrial Revolution,” that reads a 3D printed waveform to produce a 39 second audio clip of Obama supporting 3D printing.

We Are Change would like to know your response to the advancement of 3D printing technology in society. Is 3D printing destined to be the next industrial revolution? What are the potential ramifications of this technology? What do you think about having a 3D printer in every school?

Let’s get this discussion started, leave a comment below.

Stephanie Marie

We Are Change

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