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Printing Beyond Ink on Paper

“3D printing” among current young adults tends to bring up memories of high school/college technology classes in which they were assigned to model various objects in specialized software for 3D printing and ended up with flimsy plastic eyesores. However, 3D printing goes far beyond that as an industry projected by the Wohlers Report 2019 to bring in $15.8 billion in revenue by next year and $35.6 billion in five years. With applications in areas such as rapid prototyping, the automobile industry, the textiles industry, and even the medical field, 3D printing requires little introduction as a disruptive technology that will change society for the better by making goods, products, and various technologies, some of which could be life saving, more readily available to people around the world.

Additive Manufacturing (AM), the concept behind 3D printing, has existed in one form or another since the 1980s, but has not been readily available to general consumers up until recent years. Early 3D printers cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, with one of the first 3D printers, the SLA-1 invented by Charles Hull, costing $300,000 at the time. Today, many hobbyists can purchase them for less than a hundredth, and even less than a thousandth of that, with various options of different prices/applications available on the market. For example, the relatively well reviewed Comgrow Creality Ender 3 as of the date of this post costs only $259.33 on the online retailer Amazon, and it is smaller than the SLA-1. This progression to affordability & portability sounds similar to another invention that changed the world upon becoming more readily accessible to general consumers: the computer. Additionally, similar to how the computer changed how we live/work/play by making digital technology more available to society, 3D printers will change life by making various products and technologies more readily available to society.

Already 3D printing has carved out its place in society. For example, bioengineers at Rice University have already printed organs capable of mimicking the bodily passageways for blood, air, lymph, and other vital fluids. Breakthroughs in 3D printed organs bring us closer and closer to organ donors being phased out, with many people leading better lives as a result. In the end, the benefits of 3D printed organs are the same benefits enjoyed by just about anything 3D printing related: higher availability to the populace.

  • Kevin Hu

Wohlers report 2019: 3D printing and additive manufacturing state of the industry. (2019). Fort Collins, CO: Wohlers Associates.Statistics on AM industry growth.

The Evolution of 3D Printing: Past, Present and Future. (2016, August 18). Retrieved from https://3dprintingindustry.com/news/evolution-3d-printing-past-present-future-90605/Statistics on cost of 3D printing

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