3D printing refers to processes in which material is joined or
solidified under computer control to create a three-dimensional
object, with material being added together (such as liquid
molecules or powder grains being fused together).
3D printing is used
in both rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing (AM). Objects can
be of almost any shape or geometry and typically are produced using
digital model data from a 3D model or another electronic data source
such as an Additive Manufacturing
File (AMF) file (usually in
sequential layers). There are many different technologies, like
stereolithography (STL) or fused deposit modeling (FDM). Thus, unlike
material removed from a stock in the conventional machining process,
3D printing or AM builds a three-dimensional object from
computer-aided design (CAD) model or AMF file, usually by successively
adding material layer by layer.
The term "3D printing" originally referred to a process that deposits
a binder material onto a powder bed with inkjet printer heads layer by
layer. More recently, the term is being used in popular vernacular to
encompass a wider variety of additive manufacturing techniques. United
States and global technical standards use the official term additive
manufacturing for this broader sense, since the final goal of additive
manufacturing is to achieve mass-production, which greatly differs
3D printing for Rapid prototyping.
3 General principles
4 Processes and printers
6 Legal aspects
6.1 Intellectual property
6.2 Gun legislation and administration
6.3 Aerospace Regulation
7 Health and safety
7.1 Health regulation
8.1 Social change
9 See also
11 Further reading
12 External links
The umbrella term additive manufacturing (AM) gained wide currency in
the 2000s, inspired by the theme of material being added together
(in any of various ways). In contrast, the term subtractive
manufacturing appeared as a retronym for the large family of machining
processes with material removal as their common theme. The term 3D
printing still referred only to the polymer technologies in most
minds, and the term AM was likelier to be used in metalworking and end
use part production contexts than among polymer, inkjet, or
By the early 2010s, the terms
3D printing and additive manufacturing
evolved senses in which they were alternate umbrella terms for AM
technologies, one being used in popular vernacular by consumer-maker
communities and the media, and the other used more formally by
industrial AM end-use part producers, AM machine manufacturers, and
global technical standards organizations. Until recently, the term 3D
printing has been associated with machines low-end in price or in
capability. Both terms reflect that the technologies share the
theme of material addition or joining throughout a 3D work envelope
under automated control. Peter Zelinski, the editor-in-chief of
Additive Manufacturing magazine, pointed out in 2017 that the terms
are still often synonymous in casual usage but that some
manufacturing industry experts are increasingly making a sense
distinction whereby AM comprises
3D printing plus other technologies
or other aspects of a manufacturing process.
Other terms that have been used as AM synonyms or hypernyms have
included desktop manufacturing, rapid manufacturing (as the logical
production-level successor to rapid prototyping), and on-demand
manufacturing (which echoes on-demand printing in the 2D sense of
printing). That such application of the adjectives rapid and on-demand
to the noun manufacturing was novel in the 2000s reveals the
prevailing mental model of the long industrial era in which almost all
production manufacturing involved long lead times for laborious
tooling development. Today, the term subtractive has not replaced the
term machining, instead complementing it when a term that covers any
removal method is needed.
Agile tooling is the use of modular means to
design tooling that is produced by additive manufacturing or 3D
printing methods, to enable quick prototyping and responses to tooling
and fixture needs.
Agile tooling uses a cost effective and high
quality method to quickly respond to customer and market needs, and it
can be used in hydro-forming, stamping, injection molding and other
Early additive manufacturing equipment and materials were developed in
the 1980s. In 1981, Hideo Kodama of
Nagoya Municipal Industrial
Research Institute invented two additive methods for fabricating
three-dimensional plastic models with photo-hardening thermoset
polymer, where the
UV exposure area is controlled by a mask pattern or
a scanning fiber transmitter.
On 16 July 1984, Alain Le Méhauté, Olivier de Witte, and Jean Claude
André filed their patent for the stereolithography process. The
application of the French inventors was abandoned by the French
General Electric Company (now Alcatel-Alsthom) and
CILAS (The Laser
Consortium). The claimed reason was "for lack of business
Three weeks later in 1984,
Chuck Hull of
3D Systems Corporation
filed his own patent for a stereolithography fabrication system, in
which layers are added by curing photopolymers with ultraviolet light
lasers. Hull defined the process as a "system for generating
three-dimensional objects by creating a cross-sectional pattern of the
object to be formed,". Hull's contribution was the STL
(Stereolithography) file format and the digital slicing and infill
strategies common to many processes today.
The technology used by most 3D printers to date—especially hobbyist
and consumer-oriented models—is fused deposition modeling, a special
application of plastic extrusion, developed in 1988 by S. Scott Crump
and commercialized by his company Stratasys, which marketed its first
FDM machine in 1992.
3D printing originally referred to a powder bed process
employing standard and custom inkjet print heads, developed at
1993 and commercialized by Soligen Technologies, Extrude Hone
Corporation, and Z Corporation.
The year 1993 also saw the start of a company called Solidscape,
introducing a high-precision polymer jet fabrication system with
soluble support structures, (categorized as a "dot-on-dot" technique).
AM processes for metal sintering or melting (such as selective laser
sintering, direct metal laser sintering, and selective laser melting)
usually went by their own individual names in the 1980s and 1990s. At
the time, all metalworking was done by processes that we now call
non-additive (casting, fabrication, stamping, and machining); although
plenty of automation was applied to those technologies (such as by
robot welding and CNC), the idea of a tool or head moving through a 3D
work envelope transforming a mass of raw material into a desired shape
with a toolpath was associated in metalworking only with processes
that removed metal (rather than adding it), such as
CNC milling, CNC
EDM, and many others. But the automated techniques that added metal,
which would later be called additive manufacturing, were beginning to
challenge that assumption. By the mid-1990s, new techniques for
material deposition were developed at
Stanford and Carnegie Mellon
University, including microcasting and sprayed materials.
Sacrificial and support materials had also become more common,
enabling new object geometries.
As the various additive processes matured, it became clear that soon
metal removal would no longer be the only metalworking process done
through a tool or head moving through a 3D work envelope transforming
a mass of raw material into a desired shape layer by layer. The 2010s
were the first decade in which metal end use parts such as engine
brackets and large nuts would be grown (either before or
instead of machining) in job production rather than obligately being
machined from bar stock or plate. It is still the case that casting,
fabrication, stamping, and machining are more prevalent than AM in
metalworking, but AM is now beginning to make significant inroads, and
with the advantages of design for additive manufacturing, it is clear
to engineers that much more is to come.
As technology matured, several authors had begun to speculate that 3D
printing could aid in sustainable development in the developing
CAD model used for 3D printing
3D models are generated from 2D pictures taken at the Fantasitron 3D
photo booth at Madurodam
Main article: 3D modeling
3D printable models may be created with a computer-aided design (CAD)
package, via a 3D scanner, or by a plain digital camera and
photogrammetry software. 3D printed models created with
CAD result in
reduced errors and can be corrected before printing, allowing
verification in the design of the object before it is printed. The
manual modeling process of preparing geometric data for 3D computer
graphics is similar to plastic arts such as sculpting. 3D scanning is
a process of collecting digital data on the shape and appearance of a
real object, creating a digital model based on it.
Timelapse video of a hyperboloid object (designed by George W. Hart)
made of PLA using a RepRap "Prusa Mendel" 3D printer for molten
Before printing a 3D model from an STL file, it must first be examined
for errors. Most
CAD applications produce errors in output STL
files, of the following types:
A step in the STL generation known as "repair" fixes such problems in
the original model. Generally STLs that have been produced
from a model obtained through 3D scanning often have more of these
errors. This is due to how 3D scanning works-as it is often by
point to point acquisition, reconstruction will include errors in most
Once completed, the STL file needs to be processed by a piece of
software called a "slicer," which converts the model into a series of
thin layers and produces a
G-code file containing instructions
tailored to a specific type of 3D printer (FDM printers).[citation
G-code file can then be printed with
3D printing client
software (which loads the G-code, and uses it to instruct the 3D
printer during the
3D printing process).
Printer resolution describes layer thickness and X–Y resolution in
dots per inch (dpi) or micrometers (µm). Typical layer thickness is
around 100 μm (250 DPI), although some machines can print layers
as thin as 16 μm (1,600 DPI). X–Y resolution is comparable
to that of laser printers. The particles (3D dots) are around 50 to
100 μm (510 to 250 DPI) in diameter. For that
printer resolution, specifying a mesh resolution of 0.01–0.03 mm and
a chord length ≤ 0.016 mm generate an optimal STL output file for a
given model input file. Specifying higher resolution results in
larger files without increase in print quality.
Construction of a model with contemporary methods can take anywhere
from several hours to several days, depending on the method used and
the size and complexity of the model. Additive systems can typically
reduce this time to a few hours, although it varies widely depending
on the type of machine used and the size and number of models being
Traditional techniques like injection moulding can be less expensive
for manufacturing polymer products in high quantities, but additive
manufacturing can be faster, more flexible and less expensive when
producing relatively small quantities of parts. 3D printers give
designers and concept development teams the ability to produce parts
and concept models using a desktop size printer.
Seemingly paradoxic, more complex objects can be cheaper for 3D
printing production than less complex objects.
Though the printer-produced resolution is sufficient for many
applications, printing a slightly oversized version of the desired
object in standard resolution and then removing material with a
higher-resolution subtractive process can achieve greater precision.
Some printable polymers such as ABS, allow the surface finish to be
smoothed and improved using chemical vapor processes based on
acetone or similar solvents.
Some additive manufacturing techniques are capable of using multiple
materials in the course of constructing parts. These techniques are
able to print in multiple colors and color combinations
simultaneously, and would not necessarily require painting.
Some printing techniques require internal supports to be built for
overhanging features during construction. These supports must be
mechanically removed or dissolved upon completion of the print.
All of the commercialized metal 3D printers involve cutting the metal
component off the metal substrate after deposition. A new process for
3D printing allows for substrate surface modifications to
remove aluminum or steel.
Processes and printers
3D printing processes
This section should include only a brief summary of 3D printing
processes. See:Summary style for information on how to
properly incorporate it into this article's main text. (August 2017)
Schematic representation of the
3D printing technique known as Fused
Filament Fabrication; a filament a) of plastic material is fed through
a heated moving head b) that melts and extrudes it depositing it,
layer after layer, in the desired shape c). A moving platform e)
lowers after each layer is deposited. For this kind of technology
additional vertical support structures d) are needed to sustain
A timelapse video of a robot model (logo of Make magazine) being
printed using FDM on a RepRapPro Fisher printer.
A large number of additive processes are available. The main
differences between processes are in the way layers are deposited to
create parts and in the materials that are used. Each method has its
own advantages and drawbacks, which is why some companies offer a
choice of powder and polymer for the material used to build the
object. Others sometimes use standard, off-the-shelf business
paper as the build material to produce a durable prototype. The main
considerations in choosing a machine are generally speed, costs of the
3D printer, of the printed prototype, choice and cost of the
materials, and color capabilities. Printers that work directly
with metals are generally expensive. However less expensive printers
can be used to make a mold, which is then used to make metal
ISO/ASTM52900-15 defines seven categories of Additive Manufacturing
(AM) processes within its meaning: binder jetting, directed energy
deposition, material extrusion, material jetting, powder bed fusion,
sheet lamination, and vat photopolymerization.
Some methods melt or soften the material to produce the layers. In
Fused filament fabrication, also known as Fused deposition modeling
(FDM), the model or part is produced by extruding small beads or
streams of material which harden immediately to form layers. A
filament of thermoplastic, metal wire, or other material is fed into
an extrusion nozzle head (3D printer extruder), which heats the
material and turns the flow on and off. FDM is somewhat restricted in
the variation of shapes that may be fabricated. Another technique
fuses parts of the layer and then moves upward in the working area,
adding another layer of granules and repeating the process until the
piece has built up. This process uses the unfused media to support
overhangs and thin walls in the part being produced, which reduces the
need for temporary auxiliary supports for the piece.
Laser sintering techniques include selective laser sintering, with
both metals and polymers, and direct metal laser sintering.
Selective laser melting
Selective laser melting does not use sintering for the fusion of
powder granules but will completely melt the powder using a
high-energy laser to create fully dense materials in a layer-wise
method that has mechanical properties similar to those of conventional
Electron beam melting
Electron beam melting is a similar type of
additive manufacturing technology for metal parts (e.g. titanium
alloys). EBM manufactures parts by melting metal powder layer by layer
with an electron beam in a high vacuum. Another method
consists of an inkjet
3D printing system, which creates the model one
layer at a time by spreading a layer of powder (plaster, or resins)
and printing a binder in the cross-section of the part using an
inkjet-like process. With laminated object manufacturing, thin layers
are cut to shape and joined together.
Schematic representation of Stereolithography; a light-emitting device
a) (laser or DLP) selectively illuminate the transparent bottom c) of
a tank b) filled with a liquid photo-polymerizing resin; the
solidified resin d) is progressively dragged up by a lifting platform
Other methods cure liquid materials using different sophisticated
technologies, such as stereolithography.
primarily used in stereolithography to produce a solid part from a
Inkjet printer systems like the Objet PolyJet system spray
photopolymer materials onto a build tray in ultra-thin layers (between
16 and 30 µm) until the part is completed. Each photopolymer
layer is cured with UV light after it is jetted, producing fully cured
models that can be handled and used immediately, without post-curing.
Ultra-small features can be made with the 3D micro-fabrication
technique used in multiphoton photopolymerisation. Due to the
nonlinear nature of photo excitation, the gel is cured to a solid only
in the places where the laser was focused while the remaining gel is
then washed away. Feature sizes of under 100 nm are easily
produced, as well as complex structures with moving and interlocked
parts. Yet another approach uses a synthetic resin that is
solidified using LEDs.
In Mask-image-projection-based stereolithography, a 3D digital model
is sliced by a set of horizontal planes. Each slice is converted into
a two-dimensional mask image. The mask image is then projected onto a
photocurable liquid resin surface and light is projected onto the
resin to cure it in the shape of the layer. Continuous liquid
interface production begins with a pool of liquid photopolymer resin.
Part of the pool bottom is transparent to ultraviolet light (the
"window"), which causes the resin to solidify. The object rises slowly
enough to allow resin to flow under and maintain contact with the
bottom of the object. In powder-fed directed-energy deposition, a
high-power laser is used to melt metal powder supplied to the focus of
the laser beam. The powder fed directed energy process is similar to
Laser Sintering, but the metal powder is applied only where
material is being added to the part at that moment.
As of December 2017, additive manufacturing systems were on the market
that ranged from $99 to $500,000 in price and were employed in
industries including aerospace, architecture, automotive, defense, and
medical replacements, among many others. For example, General Electric
uses the high-end model to build parts for turbines. Many of these
systems are used for rapid prototyping, before mass production methods
are employed. Higher education has proven to be a major buyer of
desktop and professional 3D printers which industry experts generally
view as a positive indicator. Libraries around the world have also
become locations to house smaller 3D printers for educational and
community access. Several projects and companies are making
efforts to develop affordable 3D printers for home desktop use. Much
of this work has been driven by and targeted at
DIY/Maker/enthusiast/early adopter communities, with additional ties
to the academic and hacker communities.
Main article: Applications of 3D printing
Audi RSQ was made with rapid prototyping industrial
3D selfie in 1:20 scale printed by
Shapeways using gypsum-based
A Jet Engine turbine printed from the Howard Community College
3D printed enamelled pottery.
3D printed sculpture of the Egyptian Pharaoh Merankhre Mentuhotep
shown at Threeding
In the current scenario,
3D printing or AM has been used in
manufacturing, medical, industry and sociocultural sectors which
3D printing or AM to become successful commercial
technology. The earliest application of additive manufacturing was
on the toolroom end of the manufacturing spectrum. For example, rapid
prototyping was one of the earliest additive variants, and its mission
was to reduce the lead time and cost of developing prototypes of new
parts and devices, which was earlier only done with subtractive
toolroom methods such as
CNC milling, turning, and precision
grinding. In the 2010s, additive manufacturing entered production
to a much greater extent.
Additive manufacturing of food is being developed by squeezing out
food, layer by layer, into three-dimensional objects. A large variety
of foods are appropriate candidates, such as chocolate and candy, and
flat foods such as crackers, pasta, and pizza.
3D printing has entered the world of clothing, with fashion designers
experimenting with 3D-printed bikinis, shoes, and dresses. In
commercial production Nike is using
3D printing to prototype and
manufacture the 2012 Vapor
Laser Talon football shoe for players of
American football, and New Balance is 3D manufacturing custom-fit
shoes for athletes.
3D printing has come to the point where
companies are printing consumer grade eyewear with on-demand custom
fit and styling (although they cannot print the lenses). On-demand
customization of glasses is possible with rapid prototyping.
Vanessa Friedman, fashion director and chief fashion critic at The New
York Times, says
3D printing will have a significant value for fashion
companies down the road, especially if it transforms into a
print-it-yourself tool for shoppers. "There's real sense that this is
not going to happen anytime soon," she says, "but it will happen, and
it will create dramatic change in how we think both about intellectual
property and how things are in the supply chain." She adds: "Certainly
some of the fabrications that brands can use will be dramatically
changed by technology."
In cars, trucks, and aircraft, AM is beginning to transform both (1)
unibody and fuselage design and production and (2) powertrain design
and production. For example:
In early 2014, Swedish supercar manufacturer
Koenigsegg announced the
One:1, a supercar that utilizes many components that were 3D
Urbee is the name of the first car in the world car
mounted using the technology
3D printing (its bodywork and car windows
Local Motors debuted Strati, a functioning vehicle that was
entirely 3D Printed using ABS plastic and carbon fiber, except the
powertrain. In May 2015 Airbus announced that its new Airbus A350
XWB included over 1000 components manufactured by 3D printing.
In 2015, a
Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet flew with
printed parts. The
United States Air Force
United States Air Force has begun to work with 3D
printers, and the
Israeli Air Force
Israeli Air Force has also purchased a 3D printer to
print spare parts.
GE Aviation revealed that it had used design for additive
manufacturing to create a helicopter engine with 16 parts instead of
900, with great potential impact on reducing the complexity of supply
AM's impact on firearms involves two dimensions: new manufacturing
methods for established companies, and new possibilities for the
making of do-it-yourself firearms. In 2012, the US-based group Defense
Distributed disclosed plans to design a working plastic 3D printed
firearm "that could be downloaded and reproduced by anybody with a 3D
Defense Distributed released their plans,
questions were raised regarding the effects that
3D printing and
CNC machining may have on gun
Surgical uses of 3D printing-centric therapies have a history
beginning in the mid-1990s with anatomical modeling for bony
reconstructive surgery planning. Patient-matched implants were a
natural extension of this work, leading to truly personalized implants
that fit one unique individual. Virtual planning of surgery and
guidance using 3D printed, personalized instruments have been applied
to many areas of surgery including total joint replacement and
craniomaxillofacial reconstruction with great success. One example
of this is the bioresorbable trachial splint to treat newborns with
tracheobronchomalacia  developed at the University of Michigan.
The use of additive manufacturing for serialized production of
orthopedic implants (metals) is also increasing due to the ability to
efficiently create porous surface structures that facilitate
osseointegration. The hearing aid and dental industries are expected
to be the biggest area of future development using the custom 3D
In March 2014, surgeons in Swansea used 3D printed parts to rebuild
the face of a motorcyclist who had been seriously injured in a road
accident. As of 2012[update], 3D bio-printing technology has been
studied by biotechnology firms and academia for possible use in tissue
engineering applications in which organs and body parts are built
using inkjet techniques. In this process, layers of living cells are
deposited onto a gel medium or sugar matrix and slowly built up to
form three-dimensional structures including vascular systems.
Recently, a heart-on-chip has been created which matches properties of
In 2005, academic journals had begun to report on the possible
artistic applications of
3D printing technology. As of 2017,
3D printing was reaching a consumer audience beyond hobbyists
and enthusiasts. Off the shelf machines were incerasingly capable of
producing practical household applications, for example, ornamental
objects. Some practical examples include a working clock and gears
printed for home woodworking machines among other purposes. Web
sites associated with home
3D printing tended to include
backscratchers, coat hooks, door knobs, etc.
3D printing, and open source 3D printers in particular, are the latest
technology making inroads into the classroom. Some authors
have claimed that 3D printers offer an unprecedented "revolution" in
STEM education. The evidence for such claims comes from both the
low cost ability for rapid prototyping in the classroom by students,
but also the fabrication of low-cost high-quality scientific equipment
from open hardware designs forming open-source labs. Future
3D printing might include creating open-source
In the last several years
3D printing has been intensively used by in
the cultural heritage field for preservation, restoration and
dissemination purposes. Many Europeans and North American Museums
have purchased 3D printers and actively recreate missing pieces of
their relics. The
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British
Museum have started using their 3D printers to create museum souvenirs
that are available in the museum shops. Other museums, like the
National Museum of Military History and Varna Historical Museum, have
gone further and sell through the online platform
models of their artifacts, created using
Artec 3D scanners, in 3D
printing friendly file format, which everyone can 3D print at
3D printed soft actuators is a growing application of 3D printing
technology which has found its place in the
3D printing applications.
These soft actuators are being developed to deal with soft structures
and organs especially in biomedical sectors and where the interaction
between human and robot is inevitable. The majority of the existing
soft actuators are fabricated by conventional methods that require
manual fabrication of devices, post processing/assembly, and lengthy
iterations until maturity in the fabrication is achieved. To avoid the
tedious and time-consuming aspects of the current fabrication
processes, researchers are exploring an appropriate manufacturing
approach for effective fabrication of soft actuators. Thus, 3D printed
soft actuators are introduced to revolutionise the design and
fabrication of soft actuators with custom geometrical, functional, and
control properties in a faster and inexpensive approach. They also
enable incorporation of all actuator components into a single
structure eliminating the need to use external joints, adhesives, and
See also: Free hardware
3D printing has existed for decades within certain manufacturing
industries where many legal regimes, including patents, industrial
design rights, copyright, and trademark may apply. However, there is
not much jurisprudence to say how these laws will apply if 3D printers
become mainstream and individuals and hobbyist communities begin
manufacturing items for personal use, for non-profit distribution, or
Any of the mentioned legal regimes may prohibit the distribution of
the designs used in 3D printing, or the distribution or sale of the
printed item. To be allowed to do these things, where an active
intellectual property was involved, a person would have to contact the
owner and ask for a licence, which may come with conditions and a
price. However, many patent, design and copyright laws contain a
standard limitation or exception for 'private', 'non-commercial' use
of inventions, designs or works of art protected under intellectual
property (IP). That standard limitation or exception may leave such
private, non-commercial uses outside the scope of IP rights.
Patents cover inventions including processes, machines, manufactures,
and compositions of matter and have a finite duration which varies
between countries, but generally 20 years from the date of
application. Therefore, if a type of wheel is patented, printing,
using, or selling such a wheel could be an infringement of the
Copyright covers an expression in a tangible, fixed medium and
often lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years
thereafter. If someone makes a statue, they may have copyright on
the look of that statue, so if someone sees that statue, they cannot
then distribute designs to print an identical or similar statue.
When a feature has both artistic (copyrightable) and functional
(patentable) merits, when the question has appeared in US court, the
courts have often held the feature is not copyrightable unless it can
be separated from the functional aspects of the item. In other
countries the law and the courts may apply a different approach
allowing, for example, the design of a useful device to be registered
(as a whole) as an industrial design on the understanding that, in
case of unauthorized copying, only the non-functional features may be
claimed under design law whereas any technical features could only be
claimed if covered by a valid patent.
Gun legislation and administration
Main article: 3D printed firearms
The US Department of Homeland Security and the
Intelligence Center released a memo stating that "significant advances
in three-dimensional (3D) printing capabilities, availability of free
digital 3D printable files for firearms components, and difficulty
regulating file sharing may present public safety risks from
unqualified gun seekers who obtain or manufacture 3D printed guns,"
and that "proposed legislation to ban
3D printing of weapons may
deter, but cannot completely prevent their production. Even if the
practice is prohibited by new legislation, online distribution of
these 3D printable files will be as difficult to control as any other
illegally traded music, movie or software files."
Attempting to restrict the distribution over the Internet of gun plans
has been likened to the futility of preventing the widespread
DeCSS which enabled DVD ripping.
After the US government had
Defense Distributed take down the plans,
they were still widely available via
The Pirate Bay
The Pirate Bay and other file
sharing sites. Downloads of the plans from the UK, Germany,
Spain, and Brazil were heavy. Some US legislators have
proposed regulations on 3D printers, to prevent them being used for
3D printing advocates have suggested that
such regulations would be futile, could cripple the 3D printing
industry, and could infringe on free speech rights, with early pioneer
3D printing Professor
Hod Lipson suggesting that gunpowder could be
Internationally, where gun controls are generally stricter than in the
United States, some commentators have said the impact may be more
strongly felt, as alternative firearms are not as easily
obtainable. Officials in the United Kingdom have noted that
producing a 3D printed gun would be illegal under their gun control
Europol stated that criminals have access to other sources
of weapons, but noted that as the technology improved the risks of an
effect would increase.
See also: Aircraft Parts
In the United States, the FAA has anticipated a desire to use additive
manufacturing techniques and has been considering how best to regulate
this process. The FAA has jurisdiction over such fabrication
because all aircraft parts must be made under FAA production approval
or under other FAA regulatory categories. In December 2016, the
FAA approved the production of a 3D printed fuel nozzle for the GE
Aviation attorney Jason Dickstein has suggested that
additive manufacturing is merely a production method, and should be
regulated like any other production method. He has suggested
that the FAA's focus should be on guidance to explain compliance,
rather than on changing the existing rules, and that existing
regulations and guidance permit a company "to develop a robust quality
system that adequately reflects regulatory needs for quality
assurance." As of January 2018
Health and safety
A video on research done on printer emissions
See also: Health and safety hazards of nanomaterials
Research on the health and safety concerns of
3D printing is new and
in development due to the recent proliferation of
3D printing devices.
In 2017 the
European Agency for Safety and Health at Work
European Agency for Safety and Health at Work has
published a discussion paper on the processes and materials involved
in 3D printing, potential implications of this technology for
occupational safety and health and avenues for controlling potential
hazards. Most concerns involve gas and material exposures, in
particular nanomaterials, material handling, static electricity,
moving parts and pressures.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study
noted particle emissions from a fused filament peaked a few minutes
after printing started and returned to baseline levels 100 minutes
after printing ended. Emissions from fused filament printers can
include a large number of ultrafine particles and volatile organic
The toxicity from emissions varies by source material due to
differences in size, chemical properties, and quantity of emitted
particles. Excessive exposure to VOCs can lead to irritation of
the eyes, nose, and throat, headache, loss of coordination, and nausea
and some of the chemical emissions of fused filament printers have
also been linked to asthma. Based on animal studies, carbon
nanotubes and carbon nanofibers sometimes used in fused filament
printing can cause pulmonary effects including inflammation,
granulomas, and pulmonary fibrosis when at the nanoparticle size.
Carbon nanoparticle emissions and processes using powder metals are
highly combustible and raise the risk of dust explosions. At
least one case of severe injury was noted from an explosion involved
in metal powders used for fused filament printing. Other general
health and safety concerns include the hot surface of UV lamps and
print head blocks, high voltage, ultraviolet radiation from UV lamps,
and potential for mechanical injury from moving parts.
The problems noted in the NIOSH report were reduced by using
manufacturer-supplied covers and full enclosures, using proper
ventilation, keeping workers away from the printer, using respirators,
turning off the printer if it jammed, and using lower emission
printers and filaments. At least one case of severe injury was
noted from an explosion involved in metal powders used for fused
Personal protective equipment
Personal protective equipment has been found to be the
least desirable control method with a recommendation that it only be
used to add further protection in combination with approved emissions
Hazards to health and safety also exist from post-processing
activities done to finish parts after they have been printed. These
post-processing activities can include chemical baths, sanding,
polishing, or vapor exposure to refine surface finish, as well as
general subtractive manufacturing techniques such as drilling,
milling, or turning to modify the printed geometry. Any technique
that removes material from the printed part has the potential to
generate particles that can be inhaled or cause eye injury if proper
personal protective equipment is not used, such as respirators or
safety glasses. Caustic baths are often used to dissolve support
material used by some 3D printers that allows them to print more
complex shapes. These baths require personal protective equipment to
prevent injury to exposed skin.
Although no occupational exposure limits specific to 3D printer
emissions exist, certain source materials used in 3D printing, such as
carbon nanofiber and carbon nanotubes, have established occupational
exposure limits at the nanoparticle size.
Additive manufacturing, starting with today's infancy period, requires
manufacturing firms to be flexible, ever-improving users of all
available technologies to remain competitive. Advocates of additive
manufacturing also predict that this arc of technological development
will counter globalization, as end users will do much of their own
manufacturing rather than engage in trade to buy products from other
people and corporations. The real integration of the newer additive
technologies into commercial production, however, is more a matter of
complementing traditional subtractive methods rather than displacing
The futurologist Jeremy Rifkin claimed that
3D printing signals
the beginning of a third industrial revolution, succeeding the
production line assembly that dominated manufacturing starting in the
late 19th century.
Since the 1950s, a number of writers and social commentators have
speculated in some depth about the social and cultural changes that
might result from the advent of commercially affordable additive
manufacturing technology. Amongst the more notable ideas to have
emerged from these inquiries has been the suggestion that, as more and
more 3D printers start to enter people's homes, the conventional
relationship between the home and the workplace might get further
eroded. Likewise, it has also been suggested that, as it becomes
easier for businesses to transmit designs for new objects around the
globe, so the need for high-speed freight services might also become
less. Finally, given the ease with which certain objects can now
be replicated, it remains to be seen whether changes will be made to
current copyright legislation so as to protect intellectual property
rights with the new technology widely available.
As 3D printers became more accessible to consumers, online social
platforms have developed to support the community. This includes
websites that allow users to access information such as how to build a
3D printer, as well as social forums that discuss how to improve 3D
print quality and discuss
3D printing news, as well as social media
websites that are dedicated to share 3D models. RepRap
is a wiki based website that was created to hold all information on 3d
printing, and has developed into a community that aims to bring 3D
printing to everyone. Furthermore, there are other sites such as
Thingiverse and MyMiniFactory, which were created initially
to allow users to post 3D files for anyone to print, allowing for
decreased transaction cost of sharing 3D files. These websites have
allowed greater social interaction between users, creating communities
dedicated to 3D printing.
Some call attention to the conjunction of Commons-based peer
3D printing and other low-cost manufacturing
techniques. The self-reinforced fantasy of a system of
eternal growth can be overcome with the development of economies of
scope, and here, society can play an important role contributing to
the raising of the whole productive structure to a higher plateau of
more sustainable and customized productivity. Further, it is true
that many issues, problems, and threats arise due to the
democratization of the means of production, and especially regarding
the physical ones. For instance, the recyclability of advanced
nanomaterials is still questioned; weapons manufacturing could become
easier; not to mention the implications for counterfeiting and on
IP. It might be maintained that in contrast to the industrial
paradigm whose competitive dynamics were about economies of scale,
Commons-based peer production
Commons-based peer production
3D printing could develop economies of
scope. While the advantages of scale rest on cheap global
transportation, the economies of scope share infrastructure costs
(intangible and tangible productive resources), taking advantage of
the capabilities of the fabrication tools. And following Neil
Gershenfeld in that "some of the least developed parts of the
world need some of the most advanced technologies," Commons-based peer
3D printing may offer the necessary tools for thinking
globally but acting locally in response to certain needs.
Larry Summers wrote about the "devastating consequences" of 3D
printing and other technologies (robots, artificial intelligence,
etc.) for those who perform routine tasks. In his view, "already there
are more American men on disability insurance than doing production
work in manufacturing. And the trends are all in the wrong direction,
particularly for the less skilled, as the capacity of capital
embodying artificial intelligence to replace white-collar as well as
blue-collar work will increase rapidly in the years ahead." Summers
recommends more vigorous cooperative efforts to address the "myriad
devices" (e.g., tax havens, bank secrecy, money laundering, and
regulatory arbitrage) enabling the holders of great wealth to "avoid
paying" income and estate taxes, and to make it more difficult to
accumulate great fortunes without requiring "great social
contributions" in return, including: more vigorous enforcement of
anti-monopoly laws, reductions in "excessive" protection for
intellectual property, greater encouragement of profit-sharing schemes
that may benefit workers and give them a stake in wealth accumulation,
strengthening of collective bargaining arrangements, improvements in
corporate governance, strengthening of financial regulation to
eliminate subsidies to financial activity, easing of land-use
restrictions that may cause the real estate of the rich to keep rising
in value, better training for young people and retraining for
displaced workers, and increased public and private investment in
infrastructure development—e.g., in energy production and
Michael Spence wrote that "Now comes a … powerful, wave of digital
technology that is replacing labor in increasingly complex tasks. This
process of labor substitution and disintermediation has been underway
for some time in service sectors—think of ATMs, online banking,
enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, mobile
payment systems, and much more. This revolution is spreading to the
production of goods, where robots and
3D printing are displacing
labor." In his view, the vast majority of the cost of digital
technologies comes at the start, in the design of hardware (e.g. 3D
printers) and, more important, in creating the software that enables
machines to carry out various tasks. "Once this is achieved, the
marginal cost of the hardware is relatively low (and declines as scale
rises), and the marginal cost of replicating the software is
essentially zero. With a huge potential global market to amortize the
upfront fixed costs of design and testing, the incentives to invest
[in digital technologies] are compelling."
Spence believes that, unlike prior digital technologies, which drove
firms to deploy underutilized pools of valuable labor around the
world, the motivating force in the current wave of digital
technologies "is cost reduction via the replacement of labor." For
example, as the cost of
3D printing technology declines, it is "easy
to imagine" that production may become "extremely" local and
customized. Moreover, production may occur in response to actual
demand, not anticipated or forecast demand. Spence believes that
labor, no matter how inexpensive, will become a less important asset
for growth and employment expansion, with labor-intensive,
process-oriented manufacturing becoming less effective, and that
re-localization will appear in both developed and developing
countries. In his view, production will not disappear, but it will be
less labor-intensive, and all countries will eventually need to
rebuild their growth models around digital technologies and the human
capital supporting their deployment and expansion. Spence writes that
"the world we are entering is one in which the most powerful global
flows will be ideas and digital capital, not goods, services, and
traditional capital. Adapting to this will require shifts in mindsets,
policies, investments (especially in human capital), and quite
possibly models of employment and distribution."
Naomi Wu regards the usage of
3D printing in the Chinese classroom
(where rote memorization is standard) to teach design principles and
creativity as the most exciting recent development of the technology,
and more generally regards
3D printing as being the next desktop
3D Manufacturing Format
Computer numeric control
List of 3D printer manufacturers
List of common 3D test models
List of emerging technologies
List of notable 3D printed weapons and parts
Magnetically assisted slip casting
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3D Printing White Papers Expert insights on additive manufacturing and
3D printing technologies
Stereolithography • Continuous liquid interface
production • Solid ground curing
Fused filament fabrication • Robocasting
Powder bed binding/fusion
Powder bed and inkjet head 3D printing • Electron beam
melting • Selective heat sintering • Selective laser
melting • Selective laser sintering
Laminated object manufacturing • Ultrasonic consolidation
Directed energy deposition
Electron beam freeform fabrication •
Laser engineered net
3D printing marketplace • Digital modeling and
fabrication • Distributed manufacturing • Rapid
prototyping • RepRap project • 3D bioprinting
Closed ecological systems
Genetically modified food
Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence
Whole genome sequencing
Bionic contact lens
Optical head-mounted display
Virtual retinal display
Multi-primary color display
Thermal copper pillar bump
Airborne wind turbine
Concentrated solar power
Home fuel cell
Molten salt reactor
Space-based solar power
Compressed air energy storage
Flywheel energy storage
Grid energy storage
Research in lithium-ion batteries
Thermal energy storage
Internet of things
Applications of artificial intelligence
Progress in artificial intelligence
Carbon nanotube field-effect transistor
Fourth-generation optical discs
3D optical data storage
Holographic data storage
Three-dimensional integrated circuit
Linear acetylenic carbon
Pure fusion weapon
Vortex ring gun
Quantum complexity theory
Quantum error correction
Quantum key distribution
Quantum logic gates
Quantum machine learning
Quantum neural network
Self-reconfiguring modular robot
Reusable launch system
Plasma propulsion engine
Nuclear pulse propulsion
Adaptive compliant wing
Pulse detonation engine
Alternative fuel vehicle
Ground effect train
Personal rapid transit
Vehicular communication systems
Automated vacuum collection
Cloak of invisibility
Digital scent technology
Immersive virtual reality
Differential technological development
Technology readiness level