null  null
3D Printing
A Qualitative Assessment of Applications, Recent
Trends and the Technology’s Future Potential
Laura Bechthold, Veronika Fischer, Andre Hainzlmaier, Daniel Hugenroth, Ljudmila
Ivanova, Kristina Kroth, Benedikt Römer, Edyta Sikorska, Vincent Sitzmann
Studien zum deutschen Innovationssystem
Nr. 17-2015
Center for Digital Technology and Management (CDTM), München
February 2015
Diese Studie wurde im Auftrag der Expertenkommission Forschung und Innovation (EFI) erstellt. Die
Ergebnisse und Interpretationen liegen in der alleinigen Verantwortung der durchführenden Institute. Die
EFI hat auf die Abfassung des Berichts keinen Einfluss genommen.
This study was conducted on behalf of the Expertenkommission Forschung und Innovation (EFI). The results
and interpretations are the sole responsibility of the institute conducting the study. The EFI exercised no
influence on the writing of this report.
Studien zum deutschen Innovationssystem
Nr. 17-2015
ISSN 1613-4338
Publisher:
Expertenkommission Forschung und Innovation (EFI)
Geschäftsstelle
c/o Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft
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Contact address and further information:
Laura Bechthold
Center for Digital Technology and Management (CDTM)
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Tel.: 089 289 28165
Mail: [email protected]
www.cdtm.de
II
This study was conducted by the Center for Digital Technology and Management (www.cdtm.de), a joint
institution of the two universities in Munich, the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU) and the
Technische Universität München (TUM). CDTM offers the interdisciplinary add-on study program
„Technology Management“, which is part of the Elite Network of Bavaria. Students from various study
backgrounds with creative ideas, great motivation and an entrepreneurial mindset are offered the tools to put
their ideas into practice.
The study is partially based on results of the CDTM elective course “3D Printing” in Spring 2014. Therefore,
findings of this study are an emergent product of the student’s work and additional research conducted by the
main authors.
Main authors
Laura Bechthold (CDTM), Study Coordination
Veronika Fischer (CDTM)
Anne Greul (CDTM)
Andre Hainzlmaier (AUDI AG)
Daniel Hugenroth (CDTM)
Kristina Kroth (CDTM)
Ljudmila Ivanova (CDTM)
Benedikt Römer (CDTM)
Edyta Sikorska (CDTM)
Vincent Sitzmann (CDTM)
Additional research was conducted by the following CDTM students:
Regina Endres, Benjamin Haller, Daniel Herzog, Pawel Kwiecien, Simina Pasat, Alexander Popp, Alexander
Preißner, Sebastian Schaal, Martin Schöll, Jiri Smetana, and Yoana Tsoneva.
III
Contents
FIGURES AND TABLES ...................................................................................................... VI
ABBREVIATIONS ...............................................................................................................VII
0. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ............................................................................................. VIII
1. INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................ 1
1.1 3D printing: The next industrial revolution? ..................................................................................................... 1
1.2 Research methodology ...................................................................................................................................... 2
1.3 Report structure ................................................................................................................................................. 4
2. FUNDAMENTALS OF 3D PRINTING TECHNOLOGY............................................... 6
2.1 Definition of 3D printing .................................................................................................................................. 6
2.2 Chronology of additive manufacturing technology ........................................................................................... 6
2.2.1 Technological inventions and patents ........................................................................................................ 6
2.2.2 Sketching an emerging landscape of applications ..................................................................................... 8
2.3 Technology introduction ................................................................................................................................... 9
2.3.1 From bits to atoms: The additive manufacturing process .......................................................................... 9
2.3.2 Understanding different 3D printing techniques ........................................................................................ 9
2.3.3 Printing materials and feedstock .............................................................................................................. 13
3. AREAS OF APPLICATION: TRENDS AND CASE STUDIES ................................... 15
3.1 Additive manufacturing for industrial production ........................................................................................... 15
3.1.1 Status quo and general trends .................................................................................................................. 15
3.1.2 Case Studies ............................................................................................................................................. 18
3.1.3 Outlook: Possible changes in production processes ................................................................................. 25
3.2 3D Printing in the healthcare and well-being sector ....................................................................................... 29
3.2.1 Medical applications ................................................................................................................................ 29
3.2.2 3D food printing & nutrition .................................................................................................................... 35
3.3 3D Printing in the consumer market ............................................................................................................... 37
3.3.1 Status quo and trends ............................................................................................................................... 37
3.3.2 Case studies ............................................................................................................................................. 42
3.3.3 Outlook: The world of 3D printing from the consumer perspective ........................................................ 47
4. MACRO-ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT ............................................................. 51
4.1 Public support and research activities ............................................................................................................. 51
4.1.1 Germany .................................................................................................................................................. 52
4.1.2 The European Union ................................................................................................................................ 55
IV
4.1.2 The United States of America .................................................................................................................. 58
4.1.3 The People’s Republic of China .............................................................................................................. 60
4.2 Economic implications .................................................................................................................................... 62
4.2.1 Thoughts on AM microeconomics: The decreasing importance of mass production and complexity..... 62
4.2.2 The global 3D printing market and industry growth ................................................................................ 63
4.2.3 The role of 3D printing in 21st century manufacturing ............................................................................ 66
4.3 Societal implications ....................................................................................................................................... 69
4.3.1 Mass customization and the development from consumers to prosumers ............................................... 69
4.3.2 Maker movement ..................................................................................................................................... 70
4.3.3 3D printing for sustainable development in developing countries ........................................................... 70
4.4 Legal framework conditions and regulatory challenges .................................................................................. 73
4.4.1 Aspects of intellectual property and patent law ....................................................................................... 73
4.4.2 Aspects of standardization and consumer protection ............................................................................... 77
4.5 Environmental assessment of 3D printing ....................................................................................................... 79
4.5.1 Raw materials acquisition and inbound logistics ..................................................................................... 79
4.5.2 Manufacturing.......................................................................................................................................... 80
4.5.3 Outbound logistics ................................................................................................................................... 82
4.5.4 Product use, re-use and maintenance ....................................................................................................... 82
4.5.5 Recycling and waste manufacturing ........................................................................................................ 83
4.5.6 Final evaluation ....................................................................................................................................... 84
5. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS ............................................................. 85
5.1 3D Printing – A promising field, but not (yet) a game changer ...................................................................... 85
5.1.1 Expanding the toolbox ............................................................................................................................. 85
5.1.2 3D printing: Quo vadis? ........................................................................................................................... 90
5.2 Policy recommendations ................................................................................................................................. 91
5.2.1 Part I: Unleashing the technology’s full potential.................................................................................... 92
5.2.2 Part II: Defining framework conditions for an emerging 3D printing market ......................................... 93
5.2.3 Part III: Enabling a thriving 3D printing landscape ................................................................................. 94
REFERENCES ......................................................................................................................... 97
V
Figures and Tables
Figure 1: Gartner's 2014 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies.. ....................................................... 2
Figure 2: Generalized additive manufacturing process. .......................................................................... 9
Figure 3: Correlation between production costs and complexity of parts. ............................................ 19
Figure 4: Conventional cooling vs. conformal cooling. ........................................................................ 20
Figure 5: Schematic visualization of scenario 1: One household – one printer. ................................... 47
Figure 6: Schematic visualization of scenario 2: 3D printing marketplaces. ........................................ 48
Figure 7: Schematic visualization of scenario 3: 3D Copy-Shop Economy. ........................................ 49
Figure 8: How complexity favors advanced manufacturing over conventional manufacturing methods.
............................................................................................................................................................... 63
Figure 9: Revenues of eight 3D printing companies over the past 5 years. .......................................... 65
Figure 10: 3D printing expectations. Survey results of Bitkom (2014). ............................................... 66
Figure 11: Implications, trends and application areas of AM technology. ........................................... 87
Exhibit 1: New degrees of freedom in product and process design. ..................................................... 17
Exhibit 2: Overview of the 3D bioprinting process............................................................................... 33
Exhibit 3: Industry 4.0 and 3D printing................................................................................................. 67
Exhibit 4: Perspectives on 3D printing: Quotes from the expert interviews. ........................................ 90
Table 1: Overview of sources. ................................................................................................................. 3
Table 2: Institutions that took part in the interviews for this report. ...................................................... 3
Table 3: Overview of case studies. .......................................................................................................... 4
Table 4: Most important patents in the AM area. .................................................................................... 7
Table 5: 3D printing chronology and milestones. .................................................................................. 8
Table 6: Overview of AM technologies. ............................................................................................... 12
Table 7: Overview over most popular desktop 3D printers................................................................... 39
Table 8: Consumer needs fulfilled by 3D Printing. .............................................................................. 41
Table 9: Overview of MakerBot’s product portfolio. ........................................................................... 43
Table 10: Overview of Shapeways‘ product catalogue. ........................................................................ 45
Table 11: Key Players China - Industry. ............................................................................................... 61
Table 12: Key Players China - Universities. ......................................................................................... 61
Table 13: 3D printing market estimations. ............................................................................................ 66
Table 14: Opportunities and challenges of AM technology. ................................................................. 86
Table 15: Summary of macro-environmental assessment. .................................................................... 89
Table 16: Overview of policy recommendations. ................................................................................. 92
VI
Abbreviations
ABS
AM
CAD (file)
CPS
FDM
LENS
LM
NAMII
RM
RP
RT
STL
SLA
SLS
Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene
Additive manufacturing
Computer-aided design file
Cyber-physical-system
Fused Deposition Modeling
Laser Engineered Net Shaping
Layer Manufacturing
National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institutes
Rapid Manufacturing
Rapid Prototyping
Rapid Tooling
Standard Triangulation Language
Stereolithography
Selective Laser Sintering
VII
0. Executive Summary
Additive manufacturing (AM) or 3D printing is currently one of the most discussed emerging
technologies coming to market with a potentially disruptive power. The terms additive
manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing describe production processes in which a solid 3D
structure is produced layer by layer by the deposition of suitable materials via an additive
manufacturing machine. After around 30 years in the making, 3D printing is about to move
from being an industrial rapid prototyping technique to becoming a mainstream manufacturing
procedure used by industry and consumers alike. However, the question in which area and to
which extent this emerging technology will disrupt state of the art practices is far from trivial.
The goal of this report on behalf of the Expert Commission of Research and Innovation is
threefold: First, to sketch the emerging 3D printing landscape, explore key trends and the
technology’s potential. Second, to shed light on 3D printing market dynamics and framework
conditions both in Germany and in other countries. Third, to translate the findings into
recommendations that can serve as a basis for the Expert Commission’s policy report. From a
methodological perspective, the study at hand presents a knowledge synthesis based on a mix
of research methods: (1) an extensive desk research of over 250 documents comprising both
academic as well as grey literature; (2) 17 interviews with representatives from science and
industry; (3) eight small case studies that provide detailed insights into certain areas of interest;
(4) several workshops and discussions that were held during the elective course on 3D printing
at the Center for Digital Technology and Management (CDTM) in Munich in 2014.
In the course of this study, different areas of application of AM technology are explored and
put into context: (1) AM in the industrial area, (2) AM in the healthcare and wellbeing sector,
and (3) AM in the consumer market.
At first, various technical opportunities and challenges related to AM processes are elucidated.
It becomes clear that AM has a range of advantages compared to conventional production
processes. Especially new degrees of freedom in product and process design open up
opportunities for increased part complexity, material savings and weight reduction.
Furthermore, the direct connection between digital part design and manufacturing allows leaner
production chains and enables mass customization at no or little additional costs. At this point
in time, however, these opportunities are still moderated by various technical challenges that
need to be overcome to make AM applicable for mainstream mass production purposes.
Thereby, a major hurdle lies in the availability of appropriate printing materials in both the
industrial and the healthcare sector. The amount to choose from is still limited, and the printed
quality, which typically requires post-processing, is in some cases inferior to conventionally
produced items. Also in the consumer market, a broad dissemination of 3D printers is still
hindered due to technical challenges. Many desktop printers are still slow, require expensive
printing material and deliver insufficient printing quality. However, considering the speed of
development in the desktop 3D printing market, it is likely that the quality of the devices will
keep on increasing in the near future.
VIII
The striking aspect about additive manufacturing technology is the wide range of possible
applications, reaching from industrial manufacturing, medical manufacturing and 3D
bioprinting with living cells to 3D home printing with desktop applications. The different areas,
however, differentiate in terms of maturity.
(1) In the industrial area, AM is already an established manufacturing method in some
sectors and has been used for over 30 years – so far predominantly for parts production
and tooling. Recent R&D advancements, however, have triggered two major trends: (1)
an advancement from rapid prototyping to rapid manufacturing, and (2) a facilitation of
mass customization of end-products. In this way, AM technology can be used for new
purposes and finally enters the stage of end-product manufacturing. Thus, in the longterm, AM technology may change the relationship between producers and consumers
significantly. Apart from modes of mass customization, AM – especially when applied
as rapid manufacturing – might also serve as an enabling technology for digital
manufacturing. This becomes particularly interesting when looking at the German
vision of an Industry 4.0. Companies increasingly start to establish structures of CyberPhysical-Systems and try to digitalize their processes as far as possible. With its
flexibility, AM technology has the potential to become an essential tool in the CPS
arena. Nevertheless, there are also sceptic voices with regard to the potential of 3D
printing for industrial purposes in general and large-scale manufacturing in particular.
Critics argue that it is highly unlikely that 3D printing can replace the mass production
of parts or components in a short to medium time span due to remaining technical
challenges.
The findings with regard to industrial applications of AM technology are supplemented
by four case studies. The first case study presents the potential of AM to produce
complex parts based on the example of the tooling industry. The second case study deals
with the aerospace industry, in which AM can be used to reduce the weight of
components leading to significant fuel savings. The third case study deals with the car
industry, in which applications of AM could decrease assembly costs. The fourth case
study finally shows that AM can also be used as an enabler of customization and
possibly even mass customization in the footwear industry.
(2) Most interviewed experts agreed that of all areas, 3D printing bears the highest potential
for a fundamental market disruption in the healthcare sector. There, AM is probably
more needed than in any other application area as it enables individualized design, for
instance for surgical guides, implants, prostheses, ortheses or tissues. Akin to all other
AM areas, however, 3D printing applications vary in terms of technological maturity in
the field of healthcare, too. Whereas 3D printing is already common practice in
dentistry, 3D bioprinting of tissues and living cells is still at a stage of fundamental
research and far from practical application. The same counts for 3D food printing, a
topic that mainly gained recognition due to playful applications like the printing of cakes
or pasta with special design pattern. Nevertheless, in the long-term, 3D food printing
IX
could be used for creating artificial food for people with swallowing problems or special
nutritional needs. In this way, 3D food printing might contribute to a higher quality of
life for certain target groups.
(3) The latest development in 3D printing, which also inflamed the recent hype around the
topic, is certainly desktop 3D printing in the consumer market. With the expiration of
relevant patents, a plethora of different desktop 3D printers has entered the consumer
markets. With the technology becoming faster, more reliable and cheaper, the low-cost
personal 3D printer market experienced a tremendous growth in the last years. This
development coincides with improving design capabilities, as well as an improving
ability of individual users to combine and coordinate their innovation-related efforts via
internet. In other words, during the past years, it got continuously easier for consumers
to get what they want by designing products for themselves – a development that
inflamed the so-called maker movement. Nevertheless, to date, makers remain a
comparably small niche and the future development of home 3D printing is far from
certain. Only the next years will reveal in how far individual behavior of a critical mass
of people will be changed by 3D printing. As stated, this is mainly dependent on
technical advancements in home 3D printing. Hardware manufacturers, however, have
recognized deficiencies and have begun to develop desktop models with significantly
bigger chamber sizes.
Bringing the three fields – AM for industrial production, healthcare and in the consumer market
– together, a macro-environmental assessment revealed that the market for AM technology and
related services is still far from being saturated and offers significant financial potential in the
future, both for Germany and on a global scale. Furthermore, it is likely that AM could also
positively contribute to other important pillars of society: first, to society in general by
empowering people and consumers around the globe and thereby contributing to the field of
sustainable human development; and second, to environmental protection by offering
possibilities for emissions savings and waste reduction along the life-cycle of products.
Nevertheless, it became also evident that some of the main factors that currently impede a
broader dissemination and adoption of 3D printing technology are located in the legal and
regulatory area. There are many open questions in this field, reaching from issues of intellectual
property to complicated procedures for part approval. Thus, to enable a thriving 3D printing
landscape, these regulatory challenges need to be overcome in order to set the right boundary
conditions.
To put it in a nutshell, even though 3D printing may not inflame the next industrial revolution,
it is definitely an important manufacturing technology that can have a huge impact on certain
sectors. This notion even becomes stronger when comparing the potential benefits of AM with
the long-term high-tech strategy of Germany as a global leader in industry and manufacturing.
It is likely that AM will strongly influence the mechanical engineering, automotive, aerospace
and medical engineering industries, which are all of high importance for Germany.
Furthermore, upcoming fields like 3D bioprinting offer opportunities to establish new fields of
X
expertise and global leadership. Thus, especially for Germany the topic of 3D printing is of
very high relevance and has a tremendous potential.
The international comparison of AM research activities and public funding around the world
showed, however, that in Germany public support of AM technology is not as strong as in other
countries. Especially the USA and China aim for a pioneering role in that area and have adopted
large budgets for research activities, innovation and startup funding. Thereby, both nations do
not only focus on AM for industrial applications, but also specifically support the arising maker
movement by fostering the establishment of public maker spaces and facilitating access to the
technology.
To secure its competitive advantage as the world’s leading high-tech nation, Germany should
promote AM technology and ensure public support for research and innovation programs that
go beyond EU programs. Therefore, 10 policy recommendations have been formulated that can
serve as a basis for further proceedings.
Area
Part I:
Unleashing the technology’s full
potential
Part II:
Defining framework conditions for an
emerging 3D printing market
Part III:
Enabling a thriving 3D printing
landscape
Recommendation
I.I Public funding for fundamental and applied research
I.II Establishment and support of interdisciplinary and trans-regional 3D
printing clusters
II.I Establish an expert group to clarify open regulatory and legal
questions
II.II Investigation of new solutions in the area of intellectual property
II.III Establishing mechanisms for consumer protection and quality
assurance
II.IV Developing new mechanisms for standardization and product
approval
III.I Enhancing general visibility of and accessibility to 3D printing
technology
III.II Integration of 3D printing in education agendas for schools and
universities across disciplines
III.III Establishing a 3D printing information platform for end-users
III.IV Fostering entrepreneurship in the area of 3D printing
XI
1. Introduction
Bits are thrilling, but when it comes to the overall economy, it’s all about atoms.
Chris Anderson in ‘Makers’, 2012
1.1 3D printing: The next industrial revolution?
Additive manufacturing or 3D printing is currently one of the most discussed emerging
technologies coming to market with a potentially disruptive power. After around 30 years in
the making, 3D printing is about to move from being an industrial rapid prototyping technique
to becoming a mainstream manufacturing procedure used by industry and consumers alike.
Looking at the international landscape of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship,
developments around 3D printing have gained momentum resulting in a plethora of news and
raising high expectations regarding the technology’s potential. During the past years, the lowcost (< 5000$) personal 3D printer market experienced a tremendous growth with an average
rate of 346% each year from 2008 to 2011. In 2013, US President Obama acknowledged the
disruptive power of 3D printing in his second State of the Union address and announced his
plans to create National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institutes (NAMII). And in early
2014, home 3D printing was one of the core topics at the International Consumer Electronics
Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Various researchers and industry commentators even argue that 3D
printing technology has the potential to create a new type of industrial revolution (e.g.
Anderson, 2012; Markillie, 2012; Barnatt, 2013). By 2021, global sales of 3D printing products
and services are expected to grow up to $10.8 billion compared to $1.7 billion in 2011 (Wohlers
Associates, 2013). Also within the European Union, first harbingers of a 3D printing movement
can be observed. Examples are the Munich based EOS GmbH and Voxeljet AG as a global
leaders for e-manufacturing solutions since 1989, the Belgium based company Materialise NV,
or the Dutch Desktop 3D printer manufacturer Ultimaker.
The striking aspect about additive manufacturing technology is the wide range of possible
applications, reaching from industrial manufacturing, medical manufacturing and 3D
bioprinting with living cells to 3D home printing with desktop applications. The different areas,
however, differentiate in terms of maturity. As the Gartner Hype Cyle (2014) – a graphical
representation of a technology’s life cycle stage – indicates, 3D printing in the industrial area
is already an established technique, whereas 3D printing in the consumer area or 3D bioprinting
are at earlier stages of development (see fig. 1). Thus, the future of additive manufacturing
technology is still uncertain and dependent on the specific application area. Consequently, the
question in which area and to which extent this emerging technology will disrupt state of the
art practices is still far from trivial.
The goal of this report on behalf of the Expert Commission of Research and Innovation is
threefold: First, to sketch the emerging 3D printing landscape, explore key trends and the
technology’s potential. Second, to shed light on 3D printing market dynamics and framework
1
conditions both in Germany and in other countries. Third, to translate the findings into
recommendations that can serve as a basis of the Expert Commission’s policy report.
Figure 1: Gartner's 2014 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. Source: Gartner, 2014.
1.2 Research methodology
This report presents an exploratory research inquiry based on a mix of research methods.
Desk research
All findings are based on an extensive review of relevant scientific articles, media
sources as well as grey literature. Since 3D printing is a new and partially unexplored
topic, academic literature is still scarce. Moreover, large industry players as well as a
global open-source movement with thousands of individual innovators have
significantly influenced the advancement of 3D printing technology. To ensure
topicality of this report, we did not limit the investigated literature and sources for this
research to academic literature from peer-reviewed journals only, but deliberately
included up to date publications such as articles from relevant tech magazines and
reviews, as well as corporate reports and press releases. In the end, 260 sources from
different media and journals have been taken into consideration to draw a holistic
picture of current developments in the 3D printing ecosystem. Table 1 provides an
overview of the used sources.
2
Table 1: Overview of sources. Source: Own illustration.
Source Category
Academic Literature
Corporate
Publications
Media Publications
Other
Type of Source
Articles from peer-reviewed journals
Monographs, specialist books and university
publications
Conference proceedings & working papers
Reports
White papers & case studies
Other publications (website, press releases etc.)
Tech reviews and specialist magazines (e.g. Tech
Crunch, Harvard Business Review etc.)
Other news publications (Forbes, BBC; CNN etc.)
Government publications, patents, non 3D-printing
related articles, etc.
Number
44
26
9
6
4
42
53
52
24
Expert interviews
For purposes of triangulation, 17 interviews with experts both from science and industry
have been conducted to enhance the internal validity of the research output and to allow
the generation of a comprehensive picture of the research phenomenon. Table 2 displays
a list of the institutions and companies that were involved in the expert interviews. The
table shows that the interviewees represent a balanced sample from different areas of
interest. The interviews followed a semi-structured design based on guidelines that have
been derived from a literature review previous to this report.
Table 2: Institutions that took part in the interviews for this report. Source: Own illustration.
Institution
Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg,
Lehrstuhl für Wirtschaftsinformatik und
Systementwicklung,
Roland Berger Strategy Consultants
Airbus Group, Global Innovation
Networkers
EOS GmbH
RWTH Aachen, Lehrstuhl für Lasertechnik
Voxeljet AG
Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial
Engineering and Biotechnology
Klinik und Poliklinik für Mund-, Kieferund Plastische Gesichtschirurgie,
Universitätsklinikum Würzburg
Institute of Health and Biomedical
Innovation (IHBI) at Queensland
University of Technology
Lehmann & Voss & Co. KG, Hamburg
Fablab Munich
Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing
Engineering and Automation
RWTH Aachen, Chair of Technology and
Innovation Management (TIM)
AIO Robotics
Wamungo
Max-Planck-Institute for Competition and
Innovation
Technical University of Munich, Chair of
Mechanical Deformation and Founding
Focus Area
General
Cited as
Interview 1
General
Industrial applications
Interview 2
Interview 3
Industrial applications
Industrial applications
Industrial applications
Medical applications and
bioprinting
Medical applications and
bioprinting
Interview 4
Interview 5
Interview 6
Interview 7
Medical applications and
bioprinting
Interview 9
Materials
End-user space
End-user space
Interview 10
Interview 11
Interview 12
End-user space
Interview 13
Startup
Startup
Intellectual property law
Interview 14
Interview 15
Interview 16
Legal aspects and
industrial applications
Interview 17
Interview 8
3
Case Studies
The chapters dealing with industrial applications of additive manufacturing (chapter
3.1) and home 3D printing (chapter 3.3) are complemented by several case studies. The
case studies provide detailed insights the different areas and thus increase the internal
validity of the study. Table 3 provides an overview of the included case studies.
Table 3: Overview of case studies. Source: Own illustration.
Section
Industrial applications
Corporate
Publications
Case Study
Additive manufacturing for injection molding
dies
Additive manufacturing in the aerospace industry
Additive manufacturing in the car industry
Additive manufacturing in the footwear industry
3D printer manufacturer
3D model marketplaces and search engines
E-commerce: 3D printed object marketplaces
In-store 3D printing services
Chapter
3.1.2.1
3.1.2.2
3.1.2.3
3.1.2.4
3.3.2.1
3.3.2.3
3.3.2.4
3.3.2.5
Interactive discussions and workshops
This report was written by a team of the Center for Digital Technology and
Management, a joint institution of the two universities in Munich, the LudwigMaximilians-Universität München (LMU) and the Technische Universität München
(TUM). CDTM offers the interdisciplinary add-on study program Technology
Management. The content of the report is partially based on results of the elective course
on 3D printing that was offered for CDTM students in spring 2014 and organized in
cooperation with the Munich Max-Planck-Institute for Competition and Innovation.
Therefore, several findings of this study are an emergent product of the work of 18
CDTM students and three doctoral candidates, as well as insights from workshops and
fruitful discussions with researchers and industry experts during the course.
1.3 Report structure
Chapter 2 provides the theoretical and technical foundation for the report and defines key
terms. It includes an explanation of different additive manufacturing techniques as well
as a patent-based review of the technology’s development during the past 30 years.
Chapter 3 is dedicated to different application areas of 3D printing. It contains three subchapters, each of them exploring another area. Chapter 3.1 examines the current state of
3D printing in industrial applications. Chapter 3.2 draws attention to 3D printing in the
area of health care. Finally, chapter 3.3 investigates the so-called maker movement and
end-user applications of 3D printing.
Chapter 4 puts the research findings into broader context and assesses macro-environmental
aspects with regard to 3D printing. The chapter starts with an overview of public support
and respective research agendas both in Germany and in other countries (chapter 4.1).
This assessment is followed by an economic evaluation of 3D printing technology
4
(chapter 4.2). Afterwards, possible socio-economic impacts are described (chapter 4.3).
Chapter 4.4 draws the reader’s attention to arising challenges in the area of regulations
and intellectual property. Finally, chapter 4.5 provides a literature-based environmental
life-cycle assessment of 3D printed products.
Chapter 5 merges the different chapters. Chapter 5.1 summarizes and consolidates the research
findings and provides a final evaluation of the potential of 3D printing. Based on these
findings, policy recommendations for further actions have been developed, which are
described in chapter 5.2.
5
2. Fundamentals of 3D Printing Technology
2.1 Definition of 3D printing
The terms additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing describe production processes in
which a solid 3D structure is produced layer by layer by the deposition of suitable materials via
an additive manufacturing machine. In contrast to other manufacturing procedures, such as
machining and stamping that fabricate products by removing materials from a larger stock or
sheet of material, AM creates the final shape by adding materials (Huang, Liu, Mokasdar &
Hou, 2013). The entire AM process includes the digital development of a computerized 3D
model or data set containing the complete geometrical information, as well as the
transformation of the data into a physical model (Hanemann et al., 2006; Huang et al., 2013).
In this report, the terms additive manufacturing and 3D printing are used synonymously and
serve as umbrella terms for all technologies and applications.
2.2 Chronology of additive manufacturing technology
2.2.1 Technological inventions and patents
The early roots of AM technology go back to 19th century techniques of photosculpture and
topography. As early as 1859, François Willème developed a process to create a threedimensional representation of an object by simultaneously capturing image data with 24
different cameras, one every 15 degrees. In April 1890, Joseph E. Blanther filed a patent on
manufacturing contour relief-maps by using different layers of wax plates. These examples of
early 3D printing forerunners provide a first backdrop for the developments of the past 50 years.
The history of modern AM, however, begins with the advent of the main current 3D printing
techniques, namely laser sintering processes, stereolithography and fused deposition modeling
in the late 1980ies. Table 4 displays a chronological timeline of the most important AM patents
that have been filed between 1979 and 2000. This overview is non-exhaustive, but indicates the
major inventions and developments in the field.
Hideo Kodama of Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute published the first article
about a functional photopolymer rapid prototyping system in 1981. In 1984, Charles W. Hull
invented the technique of stereolithography, which uses a laser to selectively harden a layer of
plastic in a pool of fluid base material. The patent for this idea was issued in 1986. In the same
year, Hull founded the company 3D Systems, which is to date one of the global players and
pioneers in the 3D printing market. In 1992, 3D Systems started to sell their first machines that
enabled end-users to use stereolithography in order to produce prototypes of complex parts
faster than with conventional methods.
6
Table 4: Most important patents in the AM area. Source: Own research..
Patent No.
Name
Issued Date
Inventor(s)
Original Assignee
Expiration
date
Category
-
Selective Laser
Sintering
US4247508 A
Molding process
03.12.1986
Ross F. Housholder
Hico Western
Products Co..
US4575330 A
Apparatus for production of threedimensional objects by
stereolithography
11.03.1986
Charles W. Hull
Uvp, Inc.
08.08.2004
Stereolithography
US4863538 A
Method and apparatus for producing
parts by selective sintering
05.09.1989
Carl R. Deckard
Board Of Regents,
The University Of
Texas System
17.10.2006
Selective Laser
Sintering
29.05.1990
Charles W. Hull
3D Systems, Inc.
29.05.2007
Stereolithography
12.03.1991
Charles W. Hull, Charles W.
Lewis
3D Systems, Inc.
18.04.2008
Stereolithography
09.06.1992
S. Scott Crump
Stratasys, Inc.
30.10.2009
Fused Deposition
Modelling
29.12.1992
Thomas A. Almquist, Borzo
Modrek, Paul F. Jacobs, Charles
W. Lewis, Mark A. Lewis,
Abraham Liran
3D Systems, Inc.
29.09.2009
Stereolithography
Massachusetts
Institute Of
Technology
20.04.2010
3D Printing
(3DPTM)
Alliedsignal Inc.
27.06.2014
Stereolithography
Stratasys, Inc.
02.06.2014
Fused Deposition
Modelling
Behrokh Khoshevis
University Of
03.02.2015
Southern California
Fused Deposition
Modelling
Herbert E. Menhennett, Robert B.
Brown
Bpm Technology,
Inc.
19.10.2014
Fused Deposition
Modelling
3D Systems, Inc.
29.10.2013
Stereolithography
Bpm Technology,
Inc.
19.10.2014
Fused Deposition
Modelling
Stratasys, Inc.
24.12.2013
Smalley et al.
28.01.2014
Stereolithography
US4929402 A
US4999143 A
US5121329 A
US5174931 A
Method for production of threedimensional objects by
stereolithography
Computer assisted design and
manufacture
Apparatus and method for creating
three-dimensional objects
Vessel for holding building material,
smoothing member for forming
uniform coating over previous layer,
means to apply pattern of synergistic
stimulation to form layer
US5204055 A
Three-dimensional printing
techniques
20.04.1993
US5494618 A
Increasing the useful range of cationic
photoinitiators in stereolithography
27.02.1996
US5503785 A
Process of support removal for fused
deposition modeling
02.04.1996
US5529471 A
US5555176 A
US5569349 A
US5572431 A
US5587913 A
Additive fabrication apparatus and
25.06.1996
method
Apparatus and method for making
three-dimensional articles using bursts 10.09.1996
of droplets
Thermal stereolithography
Apparatus and method for thermal
normalization in three-dimensional
article manufacturing
Method employing sequential twodimensional geometry for producing
shells for fabrication by a rapid
prototyping system
29.10.1996
05.11.1996
24.12.1996
Cima, M. ., Sachs, E., Fan, T.,
Bredt, J., Michaels, S., Khanuja,
S., Lauder, A., Lee, S..,
Brancazio, D., Curodeau, A.,
Tuerck, H.
Eugene V. Sitzmann, Russell F.
Anderson, Darryl K. Barnes
S. Scott Crump, James W. Comb,
William R. Priedeman, Jr., Robert
L. Zinniel
Thomas A. Almquist, Dennis R.
Smalley
Robert B. Brown, Charles F.
Kirschman, Herbert E.
Menhennett
Steven R. Abrams, James U.
Korein,
Vijay Srinivasan, Konstantinos
Tarabanis
Dennis R. Smalley, Thomas J.
Vorgitch, Chris R. Manners,
Charles W. Hull, Stacie L.
VanDorin, Less «
US5597520 A
Simultaneous multiple layer curing in
stereolithography
28.01.1997
US5597589 A
Apparatus for producing parts by
selective sintering
28.01.1997
Carl R. Deckard
Board Of Regents,
The University Of
Texas System
28.01.2014
Selective Laser
Sintering
11.03.1997
Craig M. Childers, Charles W.
Hull
3D Systems, Inc.
11.03.2014
Stereolithography
11.03.2014
Stereolithography
11.03.2014
Stereolithography
US5609812 A
US5609813 A
Method of making a threedimensional object by
stereolithography
Method of making a threedimensional object by
stereolithography
11.03.1997
Joseph W. Allison, Dennis R.
Smalley, Charles W. Hull, Paul F. 3D Systems, Inc.
Jacobs
Wayne A. Vinson,
Frank F. Little,
Wolfgang Schwarzinger, Mark A. 3D Systems, Inc.
Lewis, Yehoram Uziel, Robert T.
Pitlak, Stuart T. Spence
Charles W. Hull, Paul F. Jacobs,
Kris A. Schmidt, Dennis R.
3D Systems, Inc
Smalley, Wayne A. Vinson
Board Of Regents,
Carl R. Deckard
The University Of
Texas System
Thomas A. Almquist, Charles W.
Hull, Borzo Modrek, Paul F.
Jacobs, Charles W. Lewis, Adam 3D Systems, Inc.
L. Cohen, Stuart T. Spence, Hop
D. Nguyen
Kevin P. McAlea, Paul F.
Forderhase, Mark E. Ganninger,
Dtm Corporation
Frederic W. Kunig, Angelo J.
Magistro
US5610824 A
Rapid and accurate production of
stereolithographic parts
11.03.1997
US5637169 A
Method of building three dimensional
objects with sheets.
10.06.1997
US5639070 A
Method of producing a part from a
powder
17.06.1997
US5651934 A
Recoating of stereolithographic layers
29.07.1997
US5733497 A
Selective laser sintering with
composite plastic material
31.03.1998
US5762856 A
Lamination by solidifying a radiation
exposed photopolymer
09.06.1998
Charles W. Hull
Charles W. Hull
04.04.2000
Francisco P. Jeantette, David M.
Keicher, Joseph A. Romero, Lee
P. Schanwald
US6046426 A
Method and system for producing
complex-shape objects
10.06.2014
17.06.2014
Selective Laser
Sintering
29.07.2014
Stereolithography
20.03.2014
Selective Laser
Sintering
09.06.2015
Stereolithography
Sandia Corporation 08.07.2016
Laser Engineered
Net Shaping
(LENS)
7
Ross F. Housholder was the first person to file a patent on a powder-based laser sintering
process in 1979. In 1986, Carl R. Deckard filed a patent named “Method and apparatus for
producing parts by selective sintering” (Deckard, 1989). This technology enabled the use of
materials other than polymers for AM procedures, among them metals and a number of different
thermoplastics. Soon after, Deckard and his research team founded the company Nova
Automation. In 1989, they renamed Nova Automation to DTM Corporation in reference to the
term ‘desktop manufacturing’. In the same year, DTM Corporation started selling the first
commercial selective laser sintering (SLS) machines called Mod A and Mod B. In August 2001,
DTM Corporation was acquired by 3D Systems (3D Systems, 2001).
Another approach to producing three-dimensional objects from digital files was patented in
1993 by a group of researchers around Michael Cima and Emanuel Sachs of the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (Cima, 1995). Called “3D Printing”, this approach uses a powderized
base material that is selectively fused together by jetting a binder into the powder bed. The
name alludes to the 3rd dimension that is added to the traditional flat – 2D – printing. MIT
licensed 3D Printing to a number of companies for application in various areas such as medical,
prototyping and manufacturing. The most widely known spin-off was ZCorporation, short
ZCorp, which developed the first full-color 3D printer. In 2012, 3D Systems acquired ZCorp
(3D Systems, 2012).
2.2.2 Sketching an emerging landscape of applications
In the beginning, 3D printing technology was mainly used for rapid prototyping processes in
engineering-related industries such as aviation and automotive. Since its first appearance
around 30 years ago, however, the technology has advanced significantly resulting in a plethora
of use cases and applications. Especially the expiration of certain patents that were issued in
the 1980ies and 1990ies caused new innovators and companies to enter the 3D printing market
with the intention to unleash the technology’s full potential (see table 5). As the technology
becomes more efficient and effective, the possibilities for 3D printing become more diverse,
dynamic and disruptive. The table below provides a brief historical overview of technological
milestones related to 3D printing.
Table 5: 3D printing chronology and milestones. Source: Illustration adapted from Price, 2011.
Year
1991
1992
1992
1999
2000
2000
2001
2005
2006
2008
2008
2008
2008
2008
2009
2011
2011
2012
Event
Stratasys produces the first FDM 3D printer.
The first 3D printer based on stereolithography is produced by 3D Systems.
DTM produces the first selective laser sintering machine
A group of researchers of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine use 3D printing technology to create scaffolds
from living cells.
Object geometries produces the first 3D inkjet printer.
Z Corp produces the first multicolor 3D printer.
Solidimension produces the first desktop 3D printer.
Dr Adrian Bowyer founds the RepRap project at the University of Bath based on open-source collaboration.
The first SLS machine becomes viable and opens the door for mass customization.
The RepRap Darwin printer is released as the first self-replicating 3D printer that can produce most of its own components.
Stratasys produces the first biocompatible FDM material.
Shapeways launches the first 3D printing online market place.
MakerBot launches Thingiverse as another file sharing platform.
The first 3D printed prosthetic leg including all relevant joints is produced.
The bioprinting company Organovo produces the first 3D printed blood vessel.
Kor Ecologic unveils the first 3D-printed car called Urbee that consists of a fully 3D printed body.
iMaterialise becomes the first 3D printing service that offers gold and silver as printing materials.
The Dutch company LayerWise produces the first customized 3D-printed prosthetic lower jaw.
8
2.3 Technology introduction
The following sections provide an overview of different 3D printing technologies to clarify
technical terms and to lay the foundation for subsequent elaborations.
2.3.1 From bits to things: The additive manufacturing process
The AM process starts with the development of a digital 3D model or data set containing the
complete geometrical information and continues with the transformation of these data into a
physical model layer by layer (Hanemann et al., 2006; Huang et al., 2013). Thus, the AM
process begins several steps before the print head or laser beam actually kicks into action. The
whole process (see fig. 2) is initiated when a user has an abstract image of an object in mind
that he intends to 3D print. The next step for him is to find an appropriate software that can
model the particular object in digital form in 3D and will provide the 3D printer’s built-in
software (also called firmware) with the required input data (Lipson & Kurman, 2013).
Computer-aided design (CAD) software or the scan of an existing artifact can be used to create
a 3D model of an object (Campbell, Williams, Ivanova, & Garrett, 2011). Alternatively, the
user can search various extensive databases online for a suitable existing design file (e.g.
Thingiverse).
Figure 2: Generalized additive manufacturing process. Source: Own illustration with .stl file taken from
http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:24464/#files
Once the design file is ready, the user translates the design file into a special file format called
STL, which the control software of the printer can read and work with (Lipson & Kurman,
2013). When a design file is converted to STL, the software transforms the entire surface of the
digital model into a mesh of connected triangles. When the STL conversion is complete, the
volume of the newly wrapped object is completely enclosed by the generated mesh (Lipson &
Kurman, 2013, p.79). In the next step, the 3D printer’s firmware reads the data file and slices
the model into cross-sectional layers whose spacing depends on the layer thickness of the
desired 3D print-process. Then it calculates the required shape of the area that needs to be
solidified based on the contour in each layer. When the printer’s firmware has finished this
sequence of operations, the actual printing process can start.
9
2.3.2 Understanding different 3D printing technologies
Various AM procedures have evolved to fulfill requirements of different industries. The
following section provides an introduction to the most common AM technologies. The
classification at hand is based on Pham & Gault (1998) as well as Gibson, Rosen & Stucker
(2010). In the descriptions below, three main categories are distinguished: a) processes that
involve a liquid, b) processes that involve discrete particles (powder-based processes), and c)
technologies which use a solid.
Class A: Processes involving a liquid
Aa) Solidification of a liquid polymer
The AM processes in this category involve the solidification of a resin via
electromagnetic radiation (Pham & Gault, 998, p. 1259). The best known of these
techniques is perhaps stereolithography (SLA) referring to US Patent #4575330.
Thereby, a bath of photosensitive monomer resin solidifies when it is exposed layer by
layer to a light source (UV laser). The exposure cures the material selectively, resulting
in the final shape of the object. At the beginning, the printer platform is located just
below the liquid resin’s surface. An optical imaging system consisting of different
mirrors allowing a wider laser beam deflection in x, y-direction moves the laser beam
along the resin’s surface. Where the laser hits the feedstock, it becomes solid. The first
slice contour geometry is written into the reactive resin via polymerization. After
finishing the first layer, the platform is moved a small distance towards the bottom of
the reaction container and the second layer can be written. SLA is particularly suitable
in manufacturing for the building of prototypes or master patterns. Furthermore, first
models of desktop 3D printers based on SLA have been introduced, such as the Form 1
by Formlabs.
Ab) Solidification of molten material
These technologies describe processes that involve melting and subsequent
solidification of the used material, similar to a hot-melt gun. The most popular method
is Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) referring to US Patent #5121329. Thereby, a
“thermopolymer filament passes through a liquefier heated to a temperature slightly
above the melting point of the polymer. A continuous bead, or road, is extruded through
a nozzle and deposited on a platform. A different material from a second nozzle is used
for support structures, which are later removed by solving or breaking off.” (Hanemann
et al., 2006, p. 199). As the object is printed “into the air”, supporting structures are
oftentimes needed for overhanging sections. The expiration of relevant patents in this
class triggered innovation activities in the area of home 3D printing and the emergence
of a large open-source development community (e.g. RepRap). FDM equipment has a
compact size, and the maintenance cost is low. Thus, this technique is widely used in
desktop 3D-printers (e.g. MakerBots)
10
Class B: Processes involving discrete particles
Powder-based processes describe a group of AM methods whereby a solid object is built by
fusing powder particles together via a focused laser beam or using a liquid binding agent. After
spreading a thin powder layer on the build platform either a thermal beam (laser, electron beam)
melts the sections of the powder layer that correspond to the shape of the desired object, or a
print head applies a binder on the required areas of the powder thereby solidifying the material
selectively. After this step, the build platform is lowered by one layer thickness, a new layer of
powder is spread and the process starts again.
Ba) Fusing of particles by laser
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), referring to US Patent #4863538, uses a high power
laser to fuse small particles of the feedstock material (e.g. polymers, metals, ceramics,
glass etc.). Hanemann et al. (2006) describe the SLS process as follows:
[…] a thin layer of powder is spread across a platform by a blade or a roller mechanism.
A modulated CO2 laser writes the CAD data selectively on the powder bed so that only
the particles in an area with the cross-section of the object are fused by laser energy. To
facilitate fusion of the particles the powder bed is heated to just below the melting point
of the material. The powder bed is then lowered and a new layer of particles is spread
across the building platform. (p. 194f)
With SLS, only the sintered material forms the part while the un-sintered powder serves
as a supporting structure. After the printing process, the loose unfused powder can be
cleaned away and recycled.
Another emerging AM technology that is likely to gain recognition in the future is
selective laser melting (SLM). Thereby, complex structures can be generated by using
a high-power laser beam to fuse metal powders together.
Bb) Joining of particles with a binder
Three dimensional printing (3DPTM), see US Patent #5204055, is a technique that was
originally developed by the MIT and represents a combination of inkjet printing
technology and powder sintering. After spreading a thin layer of ceramic, metallic or
polymeric powder, a printing head moves across a bed of powder selectively depositing
a liquid binding material in the shape of the section. The powder bed, which also acts
as a support structure, is lowered and the process is continued with the spreading of a
new layer of powder
11
Class C: Technologies which use a solid
Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM) is one of the oldest AM technologies in place
(Gibon et al, 2010). Thereby, different sheets of material, such as paper, are bonded
with a heat-activated adhesive. Afterwards, a laser is used to cut the requested part
contour. Another example in that category is called Solid Foil Polymerisation (SFP),
whereby sheets of semi-polymerized foils are bonded by curing them with UV light
(Pham & Gault, 1277, p. 1278). Since these processes are usually not mentioned in the
discourse of 3D printing, they have not been further investigated for the purposes of this
report.
Table 6 provides a quick overview of AM processes used in practice. It should not be seen as a
comprehensive reference rather than a review of different mechanisms with their main up- and
downsides.
Table 6: Overview of AM technologies. Source: Own illustration.
Name
Stereo
lithography
Abbr.
STL
Cls.
Aa
Fused
Deposition
Modeling
FDM
Ab
Selective
laser
sintering
Selective
laser
melting
SLS
Ba
SLM
Ba
3DPTM
Bb
Bb
Laminated
Object
Modeling
LOM
C
Function
Photo curable, liquid
plastic is cured with an
UV laser beam
exposure.
Wire-shaped plastic is
melted and applied on
the construction layer
by a computer
controlled nozzle
Powder is applied in
layers. Laser sinters
particles together.
Using a high-power
laser beam to fuse
metal powders together
Printing of a binder
onto a powder bed to
stick the powder
particles together
Flat materials (paper,
aluminum) are stacked
one by one with glue.
Each time, the topmost
layer is cut according to
the object shape.
Materials
Liquid, curable
plastics,
elastomers
Advantages
smooth/detailed
surface
ABS, PLA, Wood
Inexpensive
Metals,
thermoplastic
No supporting
structures needed,
high stability
Manufacture parts
in standard metals
with high density
Disadvantages
Expensive,
printed objects
are not thermally
stable
Supporting
structures
needed, bad
surface quality,
few materials
Not the most
accurate process,
rough surface
Technology
rather slow and
(still) expensive
Works with a
wide arrange of
material types
Limited
mechanical
characteristics
Simple process
Fragile objects
High quality
steels, titanium-,
aluminum- and
nickel-based
alloys
Starch- and
plaster-based
powders, ceramics
Paper, light
metals, fiber,
glass ceramics
12
2.3.3 Printing materials and feedstock
The choice of feedstock and scaffolding material is an essential issue when printing 3D objects.
Next to the material that is used for building the desired object, some printing technologies
additionally require excess material to fill the build tray to capacity. Thereby, the specific type
of material that can be processed depends on the additive manufacturing method used.
2.3.3.1 Materials for desktop 3D printers
Today’s desktop 3D printers work predominantly with plastic. Vendors offer a large range of
different kinds that consumers can chose from based on properties such as color, tensile
strength, rigidity, biocompatibility, moisture resistance, and fire retardancy. Generally, the
plastic filament used in desktop 3D printers can be divided into two different categories:
thermoplastics and thermosetting polymers. The difference is that thermoplastics melt when
heated but do not change their internal composition so that they can be melted and re-melted
several times. Thermosetting polymers, in contrast, change their internal composition once
heated; meaning that they cannot be melted back down into a reusable liquid form (Lipson &
Kurman, 2013). A common type of thermoplastic used in personal printers is Acrylonitrile
Butadiene Styrene (ABS), the same kind that is also used in LEGO bricks. Another
thermoplastic commonly used in personal 3D printers is Poly Lactic Acid (PLA). PLA is a biodegradable type of plastic that is manufactured out of plant-based resources such as corn starch
or sugar cane (Chilson, 2013). This is why it is often referred to as “the green plastic” (Ramon,
2013). Home-scale 3D printers can also work with another category of plastics, soft plastics,
called elastomers (Lipson & Kurman, 2013). Just as the name suggests, these rubber-band-likematerials have extensive elastic properties.
To this day, the materials that home-scale 3D printers can work with are largely limited to
plastics. One exception are McorTechnology’s paper-based 3D printers that use ordinary,
affordable office paper as the build material (MCorTechnologies, 2013).
2.3.3.2 Materials for industrial additive manufacturing
In the case of industrial AM, metal is the most commonly used material. Printed metal machine
parts are a very popular industrial application for 3D metal printing (Lipson & Kurman, 2013).
The variety of metals that can be 3D printed is huge and still growing: Tool steels, stainless
steels, titanium, titanium alloy, aluminum casting alloys, nickel-based alloys, gold, and silver
all constitute metals that today are used in industrial additive manufacturing processes.
Glass, one of the most common materials used by humans, has been one of the slowest materials
to gain traction in the 3D printing area. Glass is hydrophobic, meaning that it repels water and,
hence, does not adhere very well (Lipson & Kurman, 2013). On top, powdered glass is
unpredictable when exposed to heat. Two students from the University of Washington managed
to print objects made of recycled glass in the research lab. However, commercial application of
glass printing is still predominately for art and jewelry (Lipson & Kurman, 2013).
13
One trend in material development is furthermore the emergence of digital materials. Digital
materials are composite substances made by jetting two different materials simultaneously. The
resulting materials can simulate a wide range of advanced material properties including
toughness and temperature resistance of engineering plastics.
14
3. Areas of application: Trends and Case Studies
3.1 Additive manufacturing for industrial production
This section explains how 3D printing can be applied in industrial production. The chapter is
structured into three parts. First, the status quo and current trends of industrial AM are
described. Second, four case studies are presented, covering four different industries and four
different objectives reached by using this technology. The third part consolidates the findings
and draws the reader’s attention to future opportunities and related challenges in the context of
industrial 3D printing.
3.1.1 Status quo and trends
There are two general trends that are likely to shape the future of additive manufacturing. These
include the transition from rapid prototyping to rapid manufacturing and the possibility to
enable mass customization of end-products.
3.1.1.1 Transition from rapid prototyping to rapid manufacturing
On an industry level, additive manufacturing (AM) processes have been around for decades.
The first forms of quickly fabricating a scale model were already available in the 1980s (Bird,
2012). The introduction of layer manufacturing (LM) was the first AM process and laid the
foundation of today’s rapid prototyping (RT) (Levy & Schindel, 2003). As the name implies,
the first use cases for the required machines were producing models and prototype parts. With
improving properties and new AM techniques coming up in the past 15 years, it became
plausible to take this approach to the next level. Around the turn of the millennium, first
researches proposed the LM technology for rapid tooling (RT) and rapid manufacturing (RM)
(Levy & Schindel, 2003). Using RP processes to produce long-term usable components defined
a new area of manufacturing. In 2011, the Economist points out the possible disruption potential
of AM:
Just as nobody could have predicted the impact of the steam engine in 1750 – or the printing
press in 1450, or the transistor in 1950 – it is impossible to foresee the long-term impact of 3D
Printing. But the technology is coming, and it is likely to disrupt every field it touches. (The
Economist, 2011)
However, the true disruptive character of AM is not yet present in rapid prototyping, but will
appear within the transition to rapid manufacturing. AM could then undermine economies of
scale, which once turned the classical manufacturing process upside-down. Where mass
production shows the hyperbolic curve with decreasing costs per unit with increasing scale, AM
presents an almost linear characteristic. In addition, increased complexity comes along with no
significant increase in production costs (Eisenhut & Langefeld, 2013). Generally speaking, the
more complex the product and the lower the lot size, the better are the conditions for a
successful and cost-efficient application of RM.
15
RP as the initial step in this evolution focused on the key fact of being able to produce a 3D
prototype in a very short time. The models, mostly consisting of polymer, were a proof of
concept enabling designers to quickly iterate and delivering a huge amount of new possibilities.
With the move to RT, however, the future major importance of the material properties became
clear. In addition to being “printable”, new conditions (e.g. melting point, stability, etc.) had to
be met. RT generally tries to deliver long-term consistency tools to form several thousands of
parts (Levy & Schindel, 2003). In addition, AM introduces new geometries, exceeding former
limitations, which offer new possibilities to create highly complex structures. Thus, even
conventional casting processes are reaching a new level of complexity due to printed one-time
molds. Finally, RM is considered the supreme discipline of AM. The materials of the final
product have to be highly durable and meet all the requirements of a conventionally produced
product, which is still one of the major challenges in RM.
Only if these hurdles are overcome, RM can display its true potential: First, the increase in
product development speed enables a faster time to market. Second, RM provides more
complexity for no additional cost. As aforementioned, it enables new degrees of freedom in
product design and allows developers to make use of more complex structures. This means
either that the same properties of a product can be achieved with less material and reduced
weight due to former impossible, additively manufactured geometries, or that the same amount
of material can be used in AM to create advanced structures to enhance performance. Exhibit 1
explains the new freedoms in product design due to AM in more detail. However, the limited
build rate of RM compared to classical mass production defines a major hurdle. Experts think
that this limiting factor will hinder a disruption in certain fields through RM (Eisenhut &
Langefeld, 2013; Wohlers & Caffrey, 2013). In addition, most of the time for additively
manufactured end-products, a finishing process is required in order to create a similar haptic.
The transition of RP to RM has already begun in some industries. The best example is the
medical and dental industry (see chapter 3.2), which considers RM already state-of-the-art.
Dental bridges and hearing aids are mostly build additively since this enables a high degree of
personalization. Another leading industry in the field of RM is aerospace. The production of
lightweight parts is a major field of interest. The number of products produced by AM and
currently used in military aircrafts is considered to be a 5-digit number (Honsel, 2011). The
latter case is elaborated in detail in chapter 3.1.2.2.
Notwithstanding striking examples, not everyone sees the transition from RP to RT to RM as
clear and inevitable. There are many companies focusing only on one sector, although they
know about the competitive market and the increase in dependency by staying in a single area.
Especially for companies in the fields of printing polymer and sand still focus on RP and RT in
their business. Finally, AM is still extremely limited to certain use cases due to the materials.
For RM, metal printing technologies are the clear driver (Interview 2, 2014). With more
sophisticated methods, firms like EOS have already started the age of RM. This production
approach is considered a game changer since design will become rather function- than
production-driven (Eyers & Dotchev, 2010).
16
Currently, the market is still relatively small with €1.7 billion, but is expected to grow to €7.7
billion in 2023. The reason for this sharp increase lies in general adoption but also in expected
massive technical improvement. On the one hand, the build rate is predicted to increase by a
factor of eight until 2023 and on the other hand, powder manufactures will be able to cut the
price to a third due to enhanced production technology and logistics. These effects will be the
key drivers of RM to become increasingly important in the world of production. Although RM
will have a major impact in small lot size industries and for mass customization, it is unlikely
that all existing ways of manufacturing are being disrupted (Eisenhut & Langefeld, 2013).
New degrees of freedom in product and process design
AM offers several new degrees of freedom in the design of products and production processes. The additive nature of 3D
Printing processes means that products with complex inner structures can be printed at no additional cost (Eisenhut &
Langefeld, 2013). This opens the field for many kinds of approaches to use these more diverse structures.
1. Opening up the design spectrum
In every production process, compromises have to be made between the preferred design of a piece and the
constraints of the manufacturing process. For instance, in injection molding, one has to design the part in such
a way that mold pieces and produced parts can be separated after the molding process. AM has different design
constraints than traditional manufacturing processes. Thus, it can (sometimes) provide a way of production that
requires fewer compromises than traditional manufacturing techniques (see chapter 3.1.2.1).
2. Enabling material savings and weight reduction
AM offers the possibility to achieve the same properties of a product with less material and reduced weight due
to former impossible, additively manufactured geometries. A good example are biomimicry designs, such as
lattice structures, that can hardly be produced with traditional manufacturing techniques. Parts that use these
structures, however, can feature both a higher stability and a significant reduction in weight.
2. Reducing assembly efforts in part production
AM is capable of reducing the assembly efforts in parts production. Oftentimes, a product that has to be
manufactured in parts and assembled later can be consolidated into fewer parts with higher complexity.
Following the same idea, certain functionalities might be directly printed into the part. For instance, two parts
that are connected by a joint might be directly printed in one piece (Gibson, Rosen, & Stucker, 2010). The fact
that 3D printers do not use different tools for different pieces means that changes in product design can be
directly transferred to the manufacturing process without the need to adapt molds for casting or other tools
(Gibson et al., 2010). Furthermore, different pieces can be printed in any order, and the product that a 3D printer
produces can easily be changed by simply swapping out the CAD file. This makes 3D printing an enabler of
mass-customization, since every piece that is printed can be differing from the piece before at no additional
costs (see chapter 3.1.2.4).
Exhibit 1: New degrees of freedom in product and process design. Source: Own research.
3.1.1.2 AM as an enabler of mass customization
Along with the trend to use AM not only as a mean of RP and RT but also as a part of
manufacturing processes, the question arises what opportunities the adoption of RM offers for
industrial players.
Using AM offers several advantages over established mass production processes. First and
foremost, changes in product design can be directly transferred to the manufacturing process
without the need to adapt molds for casting or other tools (Gibson et al., 2010). Second, parts
can be manufactured in any order on an AM machine. Third, the product an AM machine is
17
currently producing can easily be changed by simply swapping the CAD file. In sum, AM
makes many design constraints irrelevant that are prevalent in established mass production
processes.
This in turn has several implications for manufacturers: First of all, manufacturers can now
mass produce products that are adapted to their individual customers’ needs – if an AM system
is used to manufacture a part – a change in the design of this part does not create additional
cost. Secondly, companies can integrate their customers into the product development process
more easily. Companies might offer their customers simple design tools to express their
preferences, which can then be directly incorporated into the manufacturing process and end in
a customized product built to the user’s specifications. Nikolaus Franke and Frank Piller
executed a study where they examined the impact of this so-called customer co-creation on the
customers’ perception of the product value. They found that customers valued products they
contributed to much higher than their non-customized counterparts (Franke & Piller, 2004).
Thus, mass customization allows companies to differentiate themselves from their competitors
and to take a price premium, both by better suiting their customers’ needs.
Although some examples of companies enabling their customers to customize their product
already exist today without AM – for instance the customizability of premium cars on the
websites of the manufacturers – AM can simplify the processes of the manufacturer
tremendously (see also chapter 3.1.2.4). As an example, product customization without AM is
often achieved by modularity and postponement. This means producing different variants of
parts to customize by different part selection and postponing the actual customization as far into
the product manufacturing process as possible (Wong & Eyers, 2010). Modularity and
postponement, however, come with a high cost, while mass customization on an AM machine
is free of additional cost.
However, AM can only solve problems coming from mass customization that are technologyrelated. Therefore, it is important to identify what aspect of a product should be customizable
and support the customer in the customization process itself (Salvador, De Holan et al. 2009).
Problems arise for instance when presenting the customer with too many choices or a too
complex mean of participating in the product development process (Desmeules 2002). It is
crucial to simplify the interface for the customer as far as possible, as too much choice, freedom
or complexity in the customization process can lead to customers postponing their buying
decisions or losing interest completely (Salvador, De Holan et al. 2009). In sum, AM is an
enabler of mass customization on the production processes side, but it is not an overall solution
for the challenges that mass customization raises.
3.1.2 Case Studies
This chapter of the report shows how versatile the application of AM in the industry can be.
Overall, four case studies are presented, covering four different industries and four different
objectives reached by using this technology. The topics were chosen in order to reflect the
trends which were either initiated or significantly accelerated by AM and which are likely to
18
emerge in other industries as well. All case studies serve as examples for the aforementioned
status quo and elaborate on current applications of AM. The first case study presents the
potential of AM to produce complex parts based on the example of the tooling industry. The
second case study deals with the aerospace industry, in which AM can be used to reduce the
weight of components, which leads to significant fuel savings. The fourth case study deals with
the car industry, in which the application of AM could decrease the assembly costs. The fourth
case study finally shows that AM can also be used as an enabler of customization and possibly
even mass customization in the footwear industry.
3.1.2.1 Additive manufacturing of injection molding dies
Injection molding has become the most commonly used manufacturing process for the
automated production of plastic moldings. By applying this process, plastic parts with complex
geometries can be produced cost-efficiently and fast while requiring none or just a small amount
of post-processing. As regards the process as such, plastic granulate is heated in a screw cylinder
and afterwards forced into a mold cavity using high pressure. After a cooling phase, the two
molding halves open up and the part is extracted automatically (Bonnet, 2009).
Cost
Conventional
Manufacturing
Additive
Manufacturing
Complexity
Figure 3: Correlation between production costs and complexity of parts. Source:
Eisenhut & Langefeld, 2013
Traditionally, molding dies – which define the mold cavity and the geometry of the finished
part – are manufactured from a solid metal block using machining operations. Figure 3
compares the correlation between geometric complexity of the produced parts and production
costs for conventional manufacturing processes and AM. One can see that the production costs
for AM are essentially independent from the complexity of the part. In contrast to that, a strong
progressive correlation exists for conventional manufacturing. Applied to the case of molding
dies, this progressive correlation means that the costs of producing a die follows an asymptotic
characteristic and becomes infinite at a certain point. At this point, the die cannot be produced
using machining operations due to restrictions from the manufacturing process (Dimla et al.,
2005). Many of these restrictions do not apply for AM. Thereby, the freedom with regard to the
geometric shape of molding dies becomes higher.
19
A critical parameter in the injection molding process is the cooling of the molds. The proper
discharge of thermal energy is crucial when a high production rate and high part quality have
to be achieved (Sachs et al., 2000). The cooling stage accounts for approximately 70-80% of
the cycle time during the injection molding process and is thereby highly relevant for the
productivity of the process (Shayfull et al., 2014). In this regard, the application of AM methods
allows for the fabrication of complex cooling passages inside the molding die, referred to as
conformal cooling channels. These cooling channels cannot be produced by traditional drilling
methods. A visualization of a geometry with conventional and conformal cooling channels can
be seen in figure 4. The improved cooling opportunities due to AM result in cycle reductions
between 10% and 30% (Radig, 2011; Concept Laser 2014).
Figure 4: Conventional cooling vs. conformal cooling. Source: Own illustration adapted from
http://www.innomia.cz/en/services/conformal-cooling
Besides a reduction in cycle times, the quality of the produced parts can be improved by
conformal cooling. Due to the equalized temperature distribution across the part, the shrinkage
occurring outside of the form after extraction is uniform and thereby avoids post-injection
warpage and supports higher accuracy of the part geometry. Besides the higher accuracy, the
conformal cooling channels allow for an increased surface quality of the produced parts,
eliminating the need for post-processing on visible parts (Dimla et al., 2005; Radig, 2011).
AM of molding dies including the implementation of conformal cooling channels is already
highly used in the tooling industry (Eisenhut & Langefeld, 2013). This is due to the fast
amortization of the higher production costs of AM through the reduced costs from shorter cycle
times and less post-processing (EOS, 2013a). Current research is focusing on the further
improvement of conformal cooling channel design by automating the process of the design (Au
et al. 2011; Wang et al., 2011).
The described developments implicate a major change in the way injection molding dies will
be manufactured in the future. Especially for contract manufacturers, this means the need to
invest in SLS or SLM machines, rather than CNC milling machines.
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3.1.2.2 Additive manufacturing in the aerospace industry
In the aerospace and aviation industry saving weight is one of the major objectives. (interview
3, 2014). Prototyping of different components has always been the key to develop new lightweight products, which is why RP found its way relatively early into this industry. According
to interviewee 3, the Airbus Group began experimenting with AM technology already in 1993.
Since weight saving aspects were promising due to the use of novel structures, the company
decided to investigate this trend in detail. Since 2003, Airbus finally uses AM and still considers
the technology to have a large potential in the aerospace sector (interview 3, 2014).
There are two main reason why the aerospace industry is one of the pioneers regarding the
integration of AM technology. First, the relatively small number of some hundreds to a few
thousand parts makes design efforts in single parts for aeronautic industries interesting
(interview 3, 2014). Second, the lot sizes in aviation are comparably small and the parts show
a certain complexity.
Furthermore, since the production of final metal parts became reality, one can think about many
different applications of AM in the aviation industry. Especially because of the long utilization
of an aircraft, permanent weight reduction is elementary to safe costs. Over a lifetime, every
saved kilogram of weight equals a reduction in fuel consumption of 45.000 liters of kerosene,
or around € 27.250 (Ayre, 2013). Although this would be highly interesting for commercial
aerospace industry, AM is primary used in military applications so far. The manufacturer
“Manufacturing on Demand” states that over 20.000 of their parts are already used – with the
majority in military airplanes (Honsel, 2011).
The most valuable asset for enabling weight savings is the usage of complex shaping and
integration to enable bionic design. Bionic design transfers structures found in nature into an
engineering context. For instance, comparing the composition of a bone with a prosthesis in
medicine, they usually are of a different internal architecture. In contrast to artificially produced
forms, objects in nature build a net shaped interior, leaving spaces between supporting
structures. This saves a lot of weight while maintaining a high stability. Being able to design
components based on this logic and exactly according to their load requirements is a major
advantage of AM and will lead to weight savings of 35-70% (interview 3, 2014).
There are many examples that already show how a bionic and complex design can save a
significant amount of weight. The SAVING project, for instance, presented its improved design
of an additively manufactured titanium belt buckle for airplanes. The weight from the original
155g heavy steel buckle could be reduced to 70g, which represents a reduction of 55%.
Installing these buckles in an A380 with only economy seating (853 seats), this results in a
reduction of 72.5 kg. Taking the before mentioned savings per kilogram into account, this
equals fuel worth approximately € 2.0 million (Ayre, 2013). In addition, EOS GmbH released
a case study of a topology optimized Airbus A380 bracket made of stainless steel powder,
produced with the DMLS technology. In comparison to conventionally manufactured parts, the
weight could be reduced by 40% from 56g to 33g (EOS GmbH, 2014b).
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Furthermore, there is the possibility of producing parts with improved capabilities. This could
be either a result of revolutionary new components or a reduction of losses due to one part with
integral components. EOS GmbH was able to optimize a jet engine by following both
approaches. By building the part bottom-up by laser sintering a cobalt-chrome alloy, they were
able to improve the fuel efficiency by optimizing the airflow and fuel swirling in the part.
Redesigned turbines as well as lighter and more precise fuel nozzles enabled this advancement.
In addition, they enabled new forms of cooling by integrated fuel channels. This resulted in a
50% cost reduction on top of the additional 40% reduction in weight, while simultaneously
increasing robustness since no joint sections were necessary any more (EOS GmbH, 2014a).
Finally, AM offers also possibilities of waste reduction and emissions in the aerospace industry.
Many of the conventionally casted and subsequently milled parts are built top-down and
produce a lot of undesired waste. A combined study of EADS and EOS shows that the buy-tofly, i.e. the ratio between how much material needs to be purchased in order to manufacture the
component and the flying part, can be reduced from 2.1 to 1.5 or by 29% (EOS GmbH, 2013c).
The study shows further that the emissions of carbon dioxide through the static phases can be
decreased significantly.
For the future, AM is predicted to gain even more relevance in the aerospace industry. Airbus
just recently announced their plans on producing bigger parts of their aircrafts with AM. For
instance, they joined a cooperation with the Chinese Northwestern Polytechnical University to
experiment with printing fuselage parts (Odrich, 2014). According to interviewee 3, calling 3D
printing “the next industrial revolution” is going a little too far, although it could be valid for
industries like aeronautics. The assertiveness of 3D printing will still depend on the final cost
of individual parts. Nevertheless, the interviewee considers this technology an important
movement, which could be a game changer for some industries already in the next 3 to 5 years.
3.1.2.3 Additive manufacturing in the car industry
Most modern car manufacturers offer an increasing variety of different car models that are
customizable by the consumers. Despite systems like the modular transverse/longitudinal
matrix used at the Volkswagen Group, which allows sharing even essential car parts among
different models and brands, many components still require model-specific production. This
affects particularly interior features which simultaneously present the highest customization
potential in a car. The large number of different components creates a considerable overhead
during production. Here, AM could provide a novel approach in producing the desired
customer-customized parts en bloc and reduce assembly costs. While already being practiced
in the premium car segment – where for instance Bugatti is "printing" complete dashboards –
AM has not yet arrived in the mass-market production.
In the following, different aspects of printing car components in the industrial mass production
environment are illuminated. There are several benefits for assembly from using 3D printers:
Firstly, the size of the single car components can be significantly bigger since 3D printers can
manufacture more complex structures – as previously mentioned. The American company KOR
22
Ecologic has applied such an approach. Their car called Urbee is mainly produced by using 3D
printers. In total, Urbee consists only of 50 single components (Bargmann, 2013; Maxey, 2013;
George 2013; Spiegel Online, 2013). Compared to a standard car with over 10,000 parts, this
is dramatic simplification in the assembly process (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 2010). Currently,
Urbee is mainly build out of ABS, printed with FDM machines. The entire car is around three
meters in length and weights around 544 kg. The printing process is outsourced to Redeye, an
on demand 3D printing service provider, and it takes around 2500 hours to finish a single car.
The German company EDAG has a similar goal. At the Geneva Auto Show (Maxey, 2014),
they presented a new automotive design in an organic shape. The car body is entirely
manufactured with high-resolution FDM machines out of carbon. Again, since the car body is
made out of only a few single parts, it is much simpler in the assembly process. In the far future,
AM could provide more ways to automate the production. Car parts could be directly printed
at their place in the car. Taking this to an extreme, one can even imagine complex parts like
engines being printed in bloc directly into the engine compartment. Hereby, the engine would
not only get more efficient and less prone to error, but also easier to assemble.
Additionally, AM could render spare part inventories obsolete. Currently, manufacturers are
required to lead inventories of spare parts – for current products and for legacy products. This
causes significant costs. On the one hand, spare parts have to be produced upfront since the
tools for their production might not be available for the whole lifetime of the product and in
order to guarantee timely delivery. On the other hand, the inventories have to be rented and
maintained. AM can enable manufacturers to only keep the CAD files of the parts and then
manufacture the spare parts on the customer’s demand. Thus, only the raw materials have to be
kept in stock. In this way, AM might enable a large cost-saving potential by eliminating the
need for spare part inventories.
According to interviewee 6, this is not very likely to happen in the next decade (interview 6,
2014). Although using AM in the automotive industry offers a lot of benefits, there are still a
lot of technical challenges to overcome during the next couple of years. State of the art AM still
cannot compete with the speed and efficiency of conventional production technologies like
machine presses, lathing machines, or traditional mills.
3.1.2.4 Additive manufacturing in the footwear industry
Every individual has a slightly different walking style and shape of feet (Grossman, 2011),
which means that there is a relatively high potential for shoe customization. This idea is
supported by the fact that wearing wrong shoes may lead to back pain, foot problems like corns
or callus, or even foot ulceration (Wesley et al., 2007). However, by today, the footwear
industry does not reflect this fact sufficiently and rather seeks economies of scale through highly
standardized production processes.
Until recently, AM was used mainly for prototyping purposes in the footwear industry.
However, established market players as well as emerging startups have started investing time
and money in AM technology in the last few years. In February 2013, one of the most prominent
23
shoe producers, sportswear company Nike, released football cleats which contain the so called
“V Plate”. This is a 3D printed nylon basis which together with other elements increase their
speed (Stinson, 2014).
Another example is the American footwear producer New Balance, who focuses on creating
customized shoes for professional runners. First, they let the athlete wear a pair of shoes
equipped with sensors and use a motion-capture system to observe how athlete’s foot behaves
inside the shoe under simulated race conditions. The data is then gathered and used to 3D print
a plate for track spikes which is attached to a standard upper (Fitzgerald, 2013). The company
aims at offering customized spike plates and midsoles to competitive runners within five years,
and then to a broader audience based on a price premium. According to Katherine Petrecca,
manager of studio innovation for New Balance, the price of these products will be high until
the demand increases and the 3D printing technology improves (Luna, 2013).
Besides multinational corporations, customization through AM is also a topic for several
startups. One example is the New Zealand-based company Three Over Seven which plans to
produce sockless, woolen shoes equipped with a 3D printed sole based on scans of their
customers’ feet (3Ders, 2014b). Another example is company SOLS which raised US-$ 6.4
million in Series A funding after obtaining US-$ 1.75 million in seed funding for creating
individualized insoles. Its customers can record a video of their feet with a special App, based
on which the company produce the insoles. SOLS is currently working together with 50 doctors
in the USA who are prescribing these insoles to the patients and is planning to significantly
scale its operations until the end of 2014 (Perez, 2014).
As demonstrated on the examples above, there is a certain trend towards the use of AM in the
footwear industry and that customization starts to become a relevant topic for some companies.
The question is whether and in which direction this trend will develop. According to
interviewee 4, it is likely that AM will enable mass customization in the footwear industry
(interview 4, 2014). In one of his visions of the future, the foot of customers and their walking
behavior will be analyzed immediately after entering a shoe store. At the check-out desk they
would simply choose the type of the shoe, some additional specifications and wait for a few
minutes for the shoe to be customized using a 3D printer directly on spot (interview 4, 2014).
Although mass customization is traditionally believed to incur additional costs for the producer
(Gilmore & Pine, 1997), and, as explained in other chapters of this report, the integration of
AM into a large-scale production may be difficult, there are still incentives for producers to
select this way. Firstly, consumers are likely to pay a premium for customized products (Weller
et al., n.a.). Secondly, the use of AM is likely to decrease the costs of mass customization
significantly. Finally, the amount of overproduction can be reduced by on-demand production
enabled by this technology. According to interviewee 4, there are a few examples in which one
third of the overall shoe production does not find a buyer and has to be destroyed. Therefore,
mass customization of shoes may be beneficial for the producers even if it incurs higher costs
per finished product than in case of standardized production.
24
Since increased production costs are not necessarily the most critical problem, the vision
sketched above is mainly hindered by the current state of technology. However, if the
technology improves and the vision comes true, the whole supply chain of the footwear industry
could be disrupted. Several steps of the production process would be insourced back to point of
sale. Taken to the extreme, this might have severe implications for low-cost countries from
which the majority of shoes are exported today. The outsourced production of finished goods
would have to change to the outsourced production of incomplex basic components, which
cannot be customized. Consequently, the production of individualized parts and final assembly
would take place first at a shoe store, or another place relatively closer to the customer, such as
a decentralized manufacturing hub – a so-called corner factory (interview 4, 2014).
Whether or not this vision comes true, AM is likely to play an important role in the footwear
industry in the future and shoe producers will have to adapt this technology at least to some
extent. Therefore, it is possible to expect that intellectual property in this area will become an
important asset in the next few years. This conclusion is also supported by the fact that some
companies are already applying for patents related to 3D printed shoes, which might give them
a significant competitive advantage in the future (Krassenstein, 2014b).
3.1.3 Outlook: Possible changes in production processes
The potential of AM can be estimated based on various benefits for the manufacturing industry,
especially in the automotive and the aviation industry. The case studies have shown that AM is
particularly valuable because it reduces lead time significantly, as even complex objects can be
manufactured in one process step (Eisenhut & Langefeld, 2013). In many cases, there is no need
to assemble different objects to one single component or, at least, assembly requirements can
be notably reduced. Even for some very complex parts it is possible to print them in one piece
(Eisenhut & Langefeld, 2013). The same accounts for tooling. AM allows direct production and
thus helps to save costly and time-consuming tooling methods, as single items can be produced
inexpensively without incurring the mold and tooling costs of traditional manufacturing
(Grynol, 2013). Thus, AM does not only facilitate time savings and logistics by skipping steps
in the production process, but it also implies a shorter time-to-market (Lindemann et al., 2012).
Rapid technologies are particularly valuable in the production of components with complex
geometries with any kind of shape such as internal passageways, undercuts and other features
that are difficult or even impossible to manufacture with conventional techniques (Bogue,
2013). As mentioned in chapter 3.1.2.2, one of the industries already exploiting this potential
is the aviation industry (Eisenhut & Langefeld, 2013). There, AM technologies enable savings
in weight up to 70% of the original part weight due to the ability to manufacture complex
geometries in the components, which translate to massive fuel reduction and thus cost savings
during flights (Lindemann et al., 2012).
In conventional manufacturing the direct connection between complexity of the product’s
geometry and manufacturing costs is a known restriction. By using AM this relationship does
not exist anymore due to the elimination of costly production tooling (Lindemann et al., 2012;
25
Eisenhut & Langefeld, 2013). The geometry of an item can be changed by one person with the
help of CAD-software and the 3D printer produces the new item. There is no need of the costand time-intensive manufacturing. New machines, tools and even small series can thus be
produced at a very low price compared to conventional manufacturing. This opens up new
possibilities in the area of mass customization. Small changes to the original product can be
done in a comparably short time and very specific to the need of the customer. The “footwear
case” in this report (chapter 3.1.2.4) shows the strength of this benefit in detail. Also, in the
medical area, the strength of mass customization is exploited already to a large extent in the
production of tooth implants or hearing aids. Other areas where mass customization shows high
potential, are industries where already today customers pay a high price for personalization,
like the automotive industry. With virtually no additional costs stylistic elements personalized
to the car owner can be offered, while exploiting a considerable higher willingness-to-pay of
the customer enabled by personalization (interview 17, 2014).
As a matter of fact, AM is still a very young production method and its usage is associated with
several drawbacks. For example, even though the variety of materials for AM is growing, the
amount to choose from is still limited, and the printed quality, which typically requires postprocessing, is in some cases inferior to those produced by conventional manufacturing methods.
Furthermore, producing pieces with AM technologies with certain materials can be more
expensive than using conventional technologies. For example, materials like titanium are still
very expensive and can raise costs up to nearly 50% even for low volume parts (Lindemann et
al., 2012). In addition, the ability of printing with two different materials within the same item
is not advanced yet. Depending on the kind of AM technology, a lot of resources are often
wasted in the production process. This is especially problematic in the case of technologies that
involve sand. Furthermore, for most 3D printers the production of extremely large items like
pipelines is not possible, as they are restricted by their chamber size. In these cases traditional
production methods are still preferred (Eisenhut & Langefeld, 2013; Grynol, 2013). Depending
on the kind of product, 3D Printing technologies can be very slow when it comes to large
volumes of items. Because of these slow build rates and a discontinuous production process,
AM cannot reach economies of scale as easily as traditional manufacturing methods and this
can raise the overall production costs (Eisenhut & Langefeld, 2013; Grynol, 2013).
At the moment, AM affects only a very small part of the manufacturing industry. However,
with increasing fabrication speed and progress concerning material and design of the
technology, it becomes likely that AM will be applied in mass production. This drives the future
vision of „Corner Factories“ – numerous locations in short distance, where customers can send
their CAD data and can pick up the 3D printed and finished product. Campell et al. (2012) share
this vision as they say if fabrication speed was significantly increased, parts would become
available in minutes rather than hours. Consumers would be prepared to wait for this short time
period for their parts to be made over the counter. These machines were likely to be seen in
shopping malls and other locations where consumer parts can be made to order (Campbell et
al., 2012).
26
Another relevant development is the expiration of several patents on AM technologies in the
industry. Once protected technologies are made available to a wide amount of companies,
acceleration of innovation and adoption of these technologies in different industries will follow.
It is expected that medium cost AM equipment will be developed in the next ten years as the
primary patents expire, and that these devices would foster increased feedstock demand which
in turn would accelerate entry of major suppliers into the marketplace with their new and
improved materials (Campbell, Bourell et al. 2012). This way, competition will increase in the
market, which in turn will drive down costs of AM technologies and eventually also costs for
consumers.
The advancement of AM technologies might also bring changes in working modes of
manufacturing facilities from a labor perspective: First of all, a broad application of AM might
drive down labor costs, especially as post-processing becomes more automated and the excesspowder will not have to be removed manually anymore. While the production process of AM
itself is nearly labor-free, the post processing is not yet automated (Lindemann et al., 2012). As
the post-processing of additive manufactured items represents a big share of the overall AM
labor costs, there is a potential for savings in the future. The technologies are also expected to
become much more reliable, which will result in less time and costs concerning monitoring and
troubleshooting the systems (Eisenhut & Langefeld, 2013). Finally, with the optimization of
the powder dispensing process and the chamber- and laser-system, build rates will increase
significantly (Eisenhut & Langefeld, 2013).
However, until AM technologies can become mainstream, many hurdles besides technological
ones related to the 3D printers as such, have to be overcome. First, not only AM technologies
have to advance, also the CAD software to design parts. So far, the available CAD-software is
not capable of capturing the full spectrum of what will be possible with AM in the future.
Examples are the ability to represent several materials or colors in the same model, the ability
to have a gradual change from one material to another, the ability to assign a particular surface
texture or pattern to a part and the ability to generate and represent complex internal structures
(Campbell et al., 2012). These issues are worked on and a newly released AMF format seems
promising in addressing these difficulties at least partly and thus will most likely replace the
former format STL.
Second, Campbell et al. (2012) and Gausemeier et al. (2012) suggest that to unleash the full
potential of AM, there needs to be a disruption in the education sector. Not only do designers
need to forget their design limitations, which they were taught in school and start to think the
without restrictions. For AM to reach its full potential, the strict separation of both areas in
education needs to dissolve to form people that are able to design a functional but also aesthetic
product. The current educational system tends to produce designers who are capable of either
one or the other. AM, on the other hand is uniquely capable of producing something, which is
both without the need for compromise. That is why “hybrid” designers are needed who are
capable of taking inspiration for their concepts from nature, fashion or the built environment
and then converting these into product forms that will also perform efficiently and
ergonomically (Campbell et al., 2012). This implies that at universities AM needs to be included
27
in design course curricula, to get trained creative minds into industry manufacturing processes.
It could be argued that the ultimate limitation to the shapes created by AM will be the
imagination of the designer (Campbell et al., 2012). The relevance of education was also
emphasized by interviewee 4, who sees it as one of the most important corner stones of a
successful implementation of AM. He stresses out that the benefits of this technology can be
harvested only by those who understand it and who can design for it. In his opinion, it is also
important to keep in mind that AM is not going to replace conventional manufacturing, but
rather enable the creation of entirely new products or improvements of existing ones.
Third, in May 2013, first discussions started, if AM technology opens up critical opportunities
for uncontrollable misuse and terrorism. The trigger of this public discussion was a 3D printed
handgun that slipped the airport security in the United States and the owner could take it to the
aircraft undetected. The file for producing the weapon was designed by anti-government
activists and was freely available on the internet, ready to be printed by an inexpensive US-$
8.000 3D printer. The 0.38 caliber liberator comprised 15 printable plastic components and a
single metal part which acted as the firing pin and which appears to be too small to trigger metal
detection systems. The plans for the pistol were downloaded 100,000 times before the files were
removed at the request of the US Department of Homeland Security (Bogue, 2013). The story
made the headlines and many people heard of 3D printing for the very first time. Even though
experts said that the weapon was not ready to shoot and without being able to print explosives
or gunpowder this was just a trick to scare people, it still sticks in people’s minds. Incidents like
that might hinder the adoption of AM due to an irrational fear of a technology that has not
unleashed its potential yet (Bogue 2013).
Finally, other hurdles that keep many firms to adopt AM technologies are admissions and
lengthy certification procedures as well as issues of intellectual property. These topics,
however, are elaborated in detail in chapter 4.4.
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3.2 3D Printing in the healthcare and well-being sector
In recent years, 3D printing technology has gained momentum in the healthcare sector by
providing a plethora of new solutions in the areas of surgical guides, medical manufacturing
and bioengineering. Especially the technology’s potential to produce individualized solutions
in cost- and time-efficient ways as well as constantly rising demand of quick medical solutions
makes 3D printing particularly interesting for medical applications. Next to 3D printing for
medical applications, there is also a discussion whether and to which extent 3D printing can be
used for artificial food production. In this area, especially the US National Aeronautics and
Space Administration (NASA) has received public recognition for granting US-$ 125.000 to a
research institute to create a first prototype of a universal food synthesizer (Kaiser, 2013). The
motivation of NASA was to come up with a new way to ensure food supply in space.
3.2.1 Medical applications
3.2.1.1 Medical manufacturing
Preparation of complex medical procedures
3D printing technology can be used for the preparation of surgeries and the production of
surgical guides to improve the precision and success ratio of complex medical procedures, such
as the insertion of implants and transplants (interview 8, 2014). Thereby, 3D printing
technology and the combination of relevant software and hardware may support surgeons in
two ways:
(1) Development of 3D printed anatomic replicas based on individual patient data. These
models can provide surgeons with a precise picture of a patient’s anatomy, which
ensures a better planning of the procedure. Furthermore, surgeons have the possibility
to practice the upcoming procedures on the printed models (The Verge, 2014).
(2) Production of surgical guides, i.e. “surgical instruments that fit the unique shape of the
patient’s bone and guide the surgeon’s drill and sawblade to the exact position and
direction defined in the surgical plan” (Park, 2013). These surgical guides can be used
to test implants regarding size and fit before the actual surgery. In this way, patientsspecific adaptations can be made in advance, such as “re-bending of titanium implant
plates to the patient's exact specifications and preoperative investigations across
maxillofacial, orthopedics, neurology, spinal and ears, nose and throat wards, to
identify the correct procedure and improve outcome” (Rockman, 2014).
For the preparation of 3D printed anatomic replicas and surgical guides, visual information in
form of standard DICOM files, which are generated during medical examinations, are used as
a data basis. These files are then converted into virtual 3D models and file formats. Afterwards,
the model can be printed according to the demands of the respective procedure.
Although the preparation of surgical procedures with the use of 3D printed support tools is still
rather expensive, it bears significant potential for the improvement of surgeries. In the past,
29
surgeons had to rely mainly on x-rays, scans and surgical experience for diagnoses and surgical
plans (The Verge, 2014). 3D printing offers new possibilities to plan surgical procedures
precisely on a case-by-case basis and to validate procedures in advance. This way, surgeries
can become more efficient and predictable (interview 8, 2014). Thus, surgical time can be
reduced significantly, which both reduces the costs of surgery and directly impacts the quality
of patient care (Rockman, 2014; interview 8, 2014).
Development of individualized implants, prosthetics and orthoses
Additive manufacturing in the area of medical manufacturing refers to the printing of non-living
materials for medical purposes such as scaffolds, teeth, bones and prosthetics (Barnatt, 2013).
To date, health care products are produced as either a mass product or patient-specific. Thereby,
the cost-efficiency of mass-produced products usually comes along with losses in individual fit
and quality. Patient-specific products are typically hand-crafted and require a long-lasting
production process: measurement, order queue, production in workshop, delivery, and possibly
modifications for a better fit (EOS, 2013b; Massy-Beresford, 2014).
AM offers the possibility to meet the demand for individualized health care products in a costefficient way. At first, the doctor examines the patient and creates a computer scan of the
affected body area. After the product has been modeled, which may happen automatically, it is
3D printed, possibly right on site (EOS, 2013b). Hearing aids are exemplary for the advanced
adoption of 3D printing technology in production of health care products. Virtually every
hearing aid manufactured today comes from a 3D printer (ChicagoBusiness.com, 2014;
Sharma, 2013c). Besides hearing aids, there is a wide range of products and tools available
through the versatility of 3D printers, as for instance demonstrated by EOS (EOS, 2013b).
For facial and limb prostheses, 3D printing has gained momentum during the past 10 years as
well and is gradually being adopted as a common manufacturing method in regenerative
medicine (Gibson et al., 2004). Especially the field of patient-specific bone replacement
implants experiences increasing popularity as first examples of successful recently performed
treatments show. In 2014, for instance, a 71-year old lady received a 3D-printed hip joint which
was integrated with her pelvis using stem cells and another woman was transplanted an entire
skullcap manufactured in a 3D printer (Eng, 2014; Molitch-Hou, 2014c). Furthermore, the
technology of actual bone regeneration is so stable that humans already receive such treatments
(interviewee 9).
Next to implants, interviewee 8 also emphasized the potential of AM technologies for the
production of orthoses, which are “externally applied devices used to modify the structural and
functional characteristics of the neuromuscular and skeletal system” (ISO 8549-1:1989). To
date the manufacturing of individualized orthoses is a complicated, multi-step procedure:
impression-taking, model-building, model modification and manufacturing of the orthosis.
Similar to the other examples in the healthcare sector, an automated and digitalized process
using AM technology could simplify this process significantly.
In terms of dental implants, most of them are typically created in a complex hand-crafting
process. The dentist takes an imprint of the broken tooth, and then a dental technician models a
complete tooth on top of that using wax. This model is then used either to produce a mold or to
30
serve as a stencil for a reductive manufacturing process. The described procedure is
predominantly hand-crafting and thus time-intensive and costly (Molitch-Hou, 2014a). Thus,
the current adoption of 3D printing in dental medicine is driven by the factors time and cost.
State-of-the-art machines demonstrate to have an advantage to prior techniques in both time
and cost and they are even capable of printing a range of materials like metals and ceramics
(EOS, 2013b).
Since consumers wish for a fast delivery of products (Molitch-Hou, 2014a), a vision is to print
these products on demand right where the treatment takes place, for example at the optician or
at the hospital itself (Massy-Beresford, 2014). Furthermore, health care products are supposed
to integrate with style and fashion. 3D printing is expected to meet the mentioned requirements
while at the same time cutting costs by up to 40 percent compared to traditional manufacturing
of patient-specific products (Massy-Beresford, 2014). In the end, interviewee 8 assumes that
3D printing will bring about manifold new opportunities in the health care sector. These
changes, however, might lead to a transformation of the medical engineering sector, as well as
a disruption of traditional manufacturing processes and related professions.
3.2.1.2 3D bioprinting and tissue engineering
According to the Gartner Hype Cycle 2014, 3D bioprinting, i.e. the process of “printing of
biocompatible materials, cells and supporting components into 3D functional living tissues”
(Murphy & Atala, 2014, p. 773), is at the innovation trigger stage representing an emerging,
promising, yet unexplored technology (Gartner, 2014). This statement coincides with current
literature and with the perception of interviewee 7, who claims that 3D bioprinting is still at
stage of fundamental research. If further advanced, however, 3D bioprinting might bring the
science of tissue engineering to the next level and has the potential to disrupt medicine
fundamentally (interviewee, 7).
As regards processes of tissue engineering, the striking innovation brought about by AM
technology was to add a third dimension (x-, y- & z-axis) to the so far two-dimensional process.
Additionally, recent improvements regarding size and resolution have opened up new
opportunities for the artificial production of tissue structures and scaffolds (interview 7, 2014).
Even though 3D bioprinting is still far from everyday application in clinical processes, first
success stories exist. For instance those of a 2-year-old child who received a printed windpipe
or a teenager who received an engineered bladder (Atala, 2011; Griggs, 2014). According to
academic literature, researchers are already able to print the structural scaffolds required for
initial cell seeding (Leukers et al., 2005; Peltola et al., 2008). Furthermore, they are as well able
to print two-dimensional and simple three-dimensional tissue structures, like skin, muscle strips
and larger blood vessels, which is already revolutionary (Mironov et al., 2003; Moon et al.,
2010). According to Mohit Chhaya from IHBI, there were even first trials for 3D-printed breast
implants for women who had breast cancer. These are meant to support the shape of the
reconstructed breast until the injected fat has been remodeled into a stable form. However, in
terms of complex soft organs not a single fully functional one has been printed up to today
(Atala, 2014).
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3D bioprinting process
Generally, interviewee 7 (2014) describes two approaches for bioprinting:
1. Printing of three-dimensional solid scaffolds, in which respective cells are seeded (e.g.
bone graft materials) and then can divide and proliferate according to the scaffold’s
form.
2. Extraction of specific cell types from tissues (e.g. connective tissue cells, skin cells,
bone cells) followed by artificial multiplication; cells are then merged with a
concentrated gelatin solution which ensures three-dimensional cohesion during the
printing process.
Exhibit 2, adapted from Murphy & Atala (2014), provides a more detailed overview of
bioprinting processes and related technology. In becomes evident that 3D bioprinting involves
many complexities such as “the choice of materials, cell types, growth and differentiation
factors, and technical challenges related to the sensitivities of living cells and the construction
of tissues” (Murphy & Atala, 2014, p. 773). Interviewee 7 emphasized that before 3D
bioprinting can enter the arena of practical application, for instance in pharmaceutical testing
processes, these challenges need to be managed by fundamental research.
3D Printing of organs
Headlines in mass media about 3D bioprinting often raise attention by proclaiming the vision
of 3D printed organs as the most radical application of 3D bioprinting. In theory, 3D organ
printing is envisioned as follows: A 3D printer prints a scaffold of the organ out of some kind
of hydrogel or biodegradable polymer (Gibson et al., 2004). In the same step or in a separate
step, cells converted from the patient’s stem cells are placed onto the scaffold’s surface
(Mironov et al., 2003, p. 18). In a chamber, which mimics the environment inside the human
body, a controlled cell proliferation is activated (Atala, 2011). There, the organ grows to full
size and is then implanted into the patient.
In a Ted Talk in March 2011, Anthony Atala, surgeon and Director of the Wake Forest Institute
for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC (US), talks about the importance of
regenerative medicine to combat arising health crises as people live longer and organ failure
becomes more common (Atala, 2011). In his talk, Atala shows a special 3D printer that builds
a prototype human kidney. However, such experimental artificial organs are still far from being
ready to implant into human patients (interview 7, 2014).
Step
1. Imaging
Explanation
Gaining a comprehensive
understanding of the
composition, organization and
components of a tissue or
organ.
Technological steps / Details
1. Medical imaging technology, such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging
(MRI), in combination with computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD-CAM) is
used to collect and digitize architectural information of the respective tissue.
2. The data are processed using tomographic reconstruction to produce 2D cross-sectional images and 3D
anatomical representations. Alternatively, also CAD-CAM and mathematical modeling techniques can
be used to generate computer-based 3D models.
3. The completed model is interfaced with numerically controlled bioprinting systems (i.e. the 3D-rendered
model is divided into thin 3D horizontal slices) to be imported to the bioprinter system.
2. Design
approach
After a virtual model has been
developed, the design
approach for the engineering
process has to be chosen. 3D
bioprinting is based on three
central design approaches:
Biomimicry: Biologically inspired engineering that involves the manufacture of identical reproductions of
the cellular and extracellular components of a tissue or organ. For this approach to succeed, the replication of
bio9logical tissues on the micro scale is necessary. Thus, a profound understanding of the microenvironment
(arrangement of cell types, gradients of soluble or insoluble factors) of the extracellular matrix as well as the
nature of the biological forces is needed.
32
biomimicry, autonomous selfassembly and mini-tissue
building blocks.
Autonomous self-assembly: Use of embryonic organ development as a guide assuming that the early cellular
components of a developing tissue produce their own ECM components and organizes autonomously to
form the desired biological micro-architecture and function.
Mini-tissue: This approach is relevant to both strategies above. Mini-tissues refer to the smallest structural
and functional components and building blocks of organs and tissues, such as kidney nephrons. They can be
assembled into the larger construct by rational design, self-assembly or a combination of both.
Materials currently used in the field of 3D bioprinting are either naturally derived polymers (e.g. alginate,
gelatin, collagen, chitosan, fibrin and hyaluronic acid), which are similar to human ECM, or synthetic
polymers (polyethylene glycol, PEG). The ideal materials for 3D bioprinting processes have to fulfill several
quality criteria and properties:
3. Material
selection
Choice of printing material
that is compatible with
biological materials, can be
processed via printing
machines and provide the
desired properties.
Printability: Properties that facilitate handling and deposition by the bioprinter (viscosity, gelation methods
and rheological properties).
Biocompatibility: Materials should not induce undesirable local or systemic responses from the host and
should contribute actively and controllably to the biological and functional components of the construct.
Degradation kinetics and byproducts: Degradation rates should be matched to the ability of the cells to
produce their own ECM; degradation byproducts should be nontoxic; materials should demonstrate suitable
swelling or contractile characteristics.
Structural and mechanical properties: Materials should be chosen based on the required mechanical
properties of the construct, ranging from rigid thermoplastic polymer fibers for strength to soft hydrogels for
cell compatibility.
4. Cell
selection
5. Bioprintin
g
6. Applicatio
n
Choice of ells for tissue
printing to ensure the correct
functioning of the fabricated
construct.
The main technologies used
for deposition and patterning
of biological materials are
inkjet, microextrusion, and
laser-assisted printing.
Different features of these
technologies should be
considered in light of the most
important factors in 3D
bioprinting, which are surface
resolution, cell viability and
the biological materials used
for printing.
Application of the 3D printed
tissue.
Material biomimicry: Engineering of desired structural, functional and dynamic material properties should
be based on knowledge of tissue-specific endogenous material compositions.
Tissues and organs comprise multiple cell types with specific and essential biological functions that must be
re-capitulated in the transplanted tissue. This includes both primary functional cell types as well as
supportive cell types. Current options for printing cells involve either the deposition of multiple primary cell
types into patterns that represent the native tissue or printing stem cells that can proliferate and differentiate
into required cell types. The cells used for bioprinting applications must be robust enough to survive the
bioprinting process and withstand physiological stresses once transplanted, including physical forces such as
shear stress and pressure as well as biological stressors including presence of toxins, enzymes and nonphysiological pH.
Inkjet bioprinting (drop-on-demand printers): Most commonly used printer type for biological applications.
The advantages include high print speed, low cost and wide availability. Studies have demonstrated that the
localized heating does not have a substantial impact on the stability of biological molecules or the viability
or post-printing function of mammalian cells. However, the risk of exposing cells and materials to thermal
and mechanical stress, low droplet directionality, non-uniform droplet size, frequent clogging of the nozzle
and unreliable cell encapsulation pose considerable disadvantages for the use of these printers for 3D
bioprinting. Examples of the inkjet bioprinting approach include the regeneration of functional skin and
cartilage.
Microextrusion bioprinting: Microextrusion bioprinters function by robotically controlled extrusion of a
material, which is deposited onto a substrate by a microextrusion head. Microextrusion yields continuous
beads of material rather than droplets. Microextrusion bioprinters can handle a myriad of materials, such as
hydrogels, biocompatible copolymers and cell spheroids. For microextrusion bioprinting, researchers often
exploit materials than can be thermally cross-linked and/or possess sheer thinning properties. The main
advantage of microextrusion bioprinting technology is the ability to deposit very high cell densities.
Microextrusion bioprinters have been used to fabricate multiple tissue types, including aortic valves,
branched vascular trees and in vitro pharmokinetic as well as tumor models.
Laser-assisted bioprinting: Laser-assisted bioprinting (LAB) is based on the principles of laser-induced
forward transfer. The technology has been successfully applied to biological material, such as peptides,
DNA and cells and is increasingly being used for tissue- and organ-engineering applications. Because LAB
is nozzle-free, the problem of clogging with cells or materials that plague other bioprinting technologies is
avoided. Furthermore, LAB is compatible with a range of viscosities and can print mammalian cells with
neglible effect on cell viability and function. However, the high resolution of LAB requires rapid gelation
kinetics to achieve high shape fidelity. The high costs of these systems is also a concern for basic tissueengineering research. Laser 3D printing has been used to fabricate medical devices.
Application can either happen via (1) maturation, (2) implantation of the 3D printed structure or (3) In vitro
testing.
Exhibit 2: Overview of the 3D bioprinting process. Taken and adapted from Murphy & Atala, 2014, p. 773-f
Alongside Atala, another significant bioprinting pioneer is Gabor Forgacs from the University
of Missouri and founder of Organovo, a company dedicated to the creation of tissues on demand
for research and surgical applications. In 2009, Organovo collaborated with medical equipment
manufacturer Invetech and created the NovoGen MMX, the world’s first commercial
bioprinter. In December 2010, Organovo used a NovoGen MMX to create the first bioprinted
human blood vessels. In 2013, it reported the successful bioprinting of human liver tissue and
that they have implanted nerve grafts into rats. Researchers at Huazhong University of Science
and Technology in China, on the other hand, claim to have successfully created living human
kidneys by using 3D printing technology. However, the application with regard to real human
bodies remains far from reality today. Barnatt (2013) estimates that a first implant of even a
simple bioprinted organ like a kidney is unlikely to occur until the late 2020s. The experts
33
interviewed for this study go even further and state that we are still about 40 to 50 years from
the first printed organ (interview 7, 2014; interview 9, 2014).
3.2.1.3 Outlook: 3D printing has significant market potential in healthcare
An analysis by the market research organization Transparency Market Research (TMR, 2013)
estimates the global 3D printing in medical application market to reach US-$ 965.5 million by
2019 compared to a market size of US-$ 354.5 million in 2012. This represents a compound
annual growth rate (CARG) of 15.4%. In 2012, medical implants accounted for the largest share
of this market, followed by surgical guides and surgical instruments. It is also the medical
implant market (including dental, orthopedic and cranio-maxillofacial implants) that is
expected to grow at the highest CARG of >15% from 2013 to 2019 (TMR, 2013). As
aforementioned, the field of bioengineering is still at a stage of basic research and thus accounts
for the smallest market share. From a nation-specific perspective, TMR (2013) expects Europe
to experience the highest growth rate in the upcoming years.
The healthcare sector is therefore probably one of the most promising applications fields for
3D printing technology. Interviewee 8 (2014) describes the possible benefits in the area of
medical manufacturing as a win-win situation: On the one hand, 3D printing provides doctors
and medical institutions with new solutions to plan treatments and to develop surgical guides,
as well as implants and prosthetics. Furthermore, these new solutions increase treatment
efficiency, which directly translates into significant economic cost savings. On the other hand,
3D printed implants and surgical guides are highly adaptable to individual requirements and
thus increase patient-fit.
In the area of 3D bioprinting, interviewee 7 sees great potential for the pharma industry in the
near future. Further advancements in 3D bioprinting technology will allow the improvement of
artificial tissue models that can be used for medical testing and simulations. This might translate
in a decrease of animal testings and cost savings. However, as stated, 3D bioprinting is still at
an early stage and requires a lot of fundamental research. Research is needed on all fronts,
starting with the bioprinting technology as such. For instance, printing methods have to be
developed that keep cells alive during the printing process since most technologies use heated
print heads (Murphy & Atala, 2014; interview 7, 2014). Second, biomaterials, cell sources and
methods of vascularization have to be improved. For instance, one of the greatest concerns is
the construction of a vascular system to keep the cells alive (Maher, 2013). Also, structures
printed up to now cannot take sufficient physical load and the question of the right base material
to use still persists (Finnegan, 2014; Peltola et al., 2008). Lastly, innervation and maturation are
additional research areas.
In sum, research is required in all fields of medical 3D printing including technical, material
and cellular aspects (interview 7, 2014; interview 8, 2014; Murphy & Atala, 2014). Addressing
these challenges will require an interdisciplinary approach, combining knowledge from
engineering, biomaterials science, cell biology, physics and medicine (Murphy & Atala, 2014).
Thus, both interviewee 7 (2014) and interviewee 8 (2014) favor the idea of interdisciplinary
clusters for AM in medicine that foster knowledge exchange and trigger joint research projects.
Germany as a world leader in medical equipment and machinery as well as in 3D printing
34
technology (Lohmüller, 2011; Mourdoukoutas, 2013), is in a favorable position to foster
research in that area while benefitting from the large market potential in that area.
3.2.2 3D food printing and nutrition
There is a discussion whether and to which extent 3D printing can be used for artificial food
production based on carbohydrates, proteins and other nutrients (Mims, 2013). One of the
pioneers in that area is Anjan Contractor, a mechanical engineer by training, whose company
Systems & Materials Research Corporation got a 125,000$ grant from NASA to create a first
prototype of a universal food synthesizer1. The motivation of NASA was to come up with a
new way to ensure food supply in space. Contractor, however, has a much bigger idea for his
invention. In May 2013, he told the online business news blog Quartz that he “sees a day when
every kitchen has a 3D printer, and the earth’s 12 billion people feed themselves customized,
nutritionally-appropriate meals synthesized one layer at a time, from cartridges of powder and
oils they buy at the corner grocery store” (Mims, 2013).
While Contractor’s vision is still far from reality, 3D printed food offers some notable
opportunities to solve emerging societal challenges. For instance, elderly people with
swallowing problems or different dietary needs could profit from the technology. However,
there are some major challenges to be overcome in order to make printed food a decent
alternative to conventionally made food.
3.2.2.1 Functionality
One of the first prototype 3D food printers, which is currently under development, is based on
a piece of open-source hardware, namely the second-generation RepRap 3D printer (Mims,
2013). 3D food printers are envisioned to work similar to typical inkjet printers. However,
instead of different colors of ink, there are various cartridges filled with liquefied or powdered
food (Pearse, 2014). The cartridges contain nutrients like protein, complex carbohydrates,
sugars or other basic building blocks. In order to make the food stick together, a gelation agent
is added to the liquid in the cartridges (Pearse, 2014).
3.2.2.2 Food supply for people with special needs
By 2025, more than 20% of all Europeans will be aged 65 and above. 3D printed food could be
a solution for the one in five people over the age of 50 who suffer from dysphagia (i.e.
swallowing problems) (Ekberg et al., 2002). Those people’s larynx, which is responsible to
guide food to the stomach instead of the lungs, does not function properly, and thus food can
get into the respiratory tract without being noticed. This can lead to serious health issues like
pneumonia and renal failure, which might even result in death (Pearse, 2014).
It is estimated that up to 60 percent of people in nursing homes suffer from that condition and
thus can “eat” liquefied meals only. This can also cause psychological effects such as frustration
and depressions. Therefore, scientists are working on reconstructing food items into a more
appetizing and still digestible form. Chicken fillets, for example, are cooked, pureed and
1
For a short video on the printer, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55NvbBJzDpU
35
strained so that the jellified version can be safely eaten as it is supposed to melt in the mouth.
At the moment, such processed food is very time-consuming and available to a restricted
number of people only. However, the European Union invested heavily into a three-year 3D
food printer technology. It is estimated that by 2015, such safe meals will be available to a lot
more people.
Scientists also think that printed food can be personalized by adding specific nutrients, like folic
acid, or vitamins to it. As a result, people could get meals which are tailored to their individual
demands (Pearse, 2014). Moreover, the powdered nutrients are shelf-stable for up to 30 years,
meaning that each cartridge can be fully exhausted before it is returned to the store. As a result,
food would no longer have to be wasted due to spoilage (Kline, 2013).
3.2.2.3 Outlook: Food printing might increase quality of life
3D food printing technology is currently at an early prototype stage, thus it will still take some
years to develop and enhance the functionalities until food printing is actually possible at a
larger scale. Furthermore, important food-types such as vegetables, fruits or meat are not
natively printable. In order to be able to print these items, significant reformulation efforts
would have to be undertaken. In contrast, there are many nourishments which are easier to print
but less healthy such as cake frosting, processed cheese or chocolate. Therefore, one big
challenge will be to find ways of printing a wide variety of healthy and sustainable food with
only a limited set of materials (Cohen, 2013).
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3.3 3D Printing in the consumer market
This section explains how 3D printing is received by consumers and how it is already or may
change the world of consumers. The chapter is structured into three parts. First, the status quo
and current trends of 3D printing in the consumer and end-user market are described. Second,
four different case studies describe important actors in the close-to-consumer market of 3D
printing. The third part provides an outlook of how the world of 3D printing may look like for
the consumer in 10-15 years from now by describing four scenarios.
3.3.1 Status quo and trends
While additive manufacture ng technologies have already gained a strong position in the
industrial sector, the development in the consumer market is still at an early stage. 3D printing
is not yet a household technology, but it is taking its first steps into the mainstream as a growing
number of early adopters familiarizes with the technology and owns a 3D printer in their homes.
Most of these early adopters are so-called Makers. Makers can be compared to power users for
software companies. Similar to hackers who like to alter software to their will, Makers bend
technology to their will and have coined a whole movement – the Maker Movement (Lipson &
Kurman, 2013).
According to interviewee 13, developments in three key areas have paved the way for the
adoption of 3D printing in the end user market and have led to the status quo. These include the
access to digital production capacities, the availability of affordable, easy to use 3D design
software, and the broad establishment of maker-to-consumer platforms.
Originating from industrial 3D printers, which have been used since 1982, so-called desktop
printers are an emergent and affordable smaller version for end users. The industry for desktop
3D printers started 30 years ago, when a number of startups filed patents for small consumer
printers, serving a niche market of the 3D printing industry (West & Kuk, 2014). However, due
to rather high prices of printers, the industry has not grown during the first two decades. Only
with the expiration of the first patents and the formation of the open-source community RepRap,
which freely disseminated 3D printer technology, small startups were able to enter the market.
With their entry, both price and the size of printers began to decrease while quality improved
(West & Kuk, 2014). Both, falling prices and the enormous reduction of personal 3D printers
in size (Cole, 2014; Huffington, 2014) reveal an ongoing trend in the AM industry and may
ultimately lead to the democratization of manufacturing (Regalado, 2013).
Additionally, an increasing number of businesses offering 3D printing services has evolved.
These businesses subsumed under the term “3D Printing as a Service”, offer Makers capacity
to realize their design ideas without owning an additive manufacturing machine themselves
(interview 13, 2014).
At the same time, the broad availability of easy to operate 3D design software (interview 13,
2014) has fuelled the adoption of 3D printing. Used for creating design files through the
mathematical representation of three-dimensional surfaces of objects, 3D modeling software is
a prerequisite for printing three-dimensional objects (Lipson & Kurman, 2013).
37
The first rather primitive computer-based design tools appeared in the 1950s and were
exclusively used by scientists for crude computer-based simulations (Lipson & Kurman, 2013).
Early commercial design software came onto the market only decades later and was
prohibitively expensive – US-$ 50.000 to US-$ 100.000 per license (Grandinetti, 2014). But
just as 3D printers have significantly dropped in price, so has CAD design software. Today, a
range of open source 3D software is freely available online, opening up the design space for a
much wider, non-professional audience (Grandinetti, 2014).
Besides the high price, technical complexity and weak usability of early design software have
been large barriers for the main public to engage in 3D modeling. Due to its origin in the
manufacturing and computer animation fields, design software was initially developed to meet
the requirements of engineers and hence included highly technical features. However, in the
past years, the market has undergone a rapid evolution. The audiences for design software have
changed from broadly technical to hobbyists and design enthusiasts (Sharma, 2013b).
Consequently, many incumbent software providers have converted their industrial grade design
technology into very simple, intuitive tools (Sharma, 2013b).
Finally, the establishment of maker-to-consumer platforms has triggered the widespread use of
3D printing technologies by private persons (interview 13, 2014). Maker-to-consumer
platforms and websites allow designers or other individuals to share their 3D models with other
users. Thereby, these platforms grant non-designers access to design files, enabling a much
wider audience to engage in 3D printing technologies.
3.3.1.1 Speed, price and material
The market of desktop 3D printers is rapidly expanding as new companies and printer models
are emerging in ever shorter time sequences (Make, 2014). While still a nascent market, the
speed of development and rise in buyer interest are pressing hardware manufacturers to offer
easier-to-use tools that produce consistently high-quality results (Gartner, 2013a). Today,
Makerbot Industries with its Replicator 2 and Replicator 2X models has established as the
dominant player accounting for more than 60% of total consumer 3D printer sales (Sharma,
2014). The various versions of the open source RepRap 3D printer make up the second largest
category followed by the Ultimaker models (3DHubs, 2014).
The print speed of personal printers tends to increase with each new generation of products.
Makerbot’s Replicator 2X prints objects twice as fast as its predecessor, the Replicator 2,
reaching a speed of 200 mm/second (see table 7). The Ultimaker models with printing speeds
of up to 400 mm/second are even faster and take the leading position. Yet, even with speeds in
this magnitude the printing of a rather small object such as a smartphone case takes around 30
minutes. For objects with dimensions in the area of 15cm x 15 cm x 15 cm, the printing process
even lasts several hours. Hence, compared to traditional means of manufacturing that produce
products by the minute, 3D printing is still not yet fast enough for our “mobile, want-it-now
world” (McCue, 2014).
Another ongoing trend within the personal 3D printer market reveals the falling prices of
hardware. The cheapest 3D printers already reached prices of only several hundred Euros. In
general, 3D printer prices are expected to further decrease during the next years due to
38
competitive pressures and higher shipment volumes (Gartner, 2013a). Today, personal 3D
printer prices range from € 1.000 to € 2.000€, with the exception of the low-cost open source
self-assemble kits by RepRap that start at € 300. To become a mainstream technology, desktop
3D printers are still too costly. Thus, their adoption in private households will highly depend
on whether prices will fall to a level that will allow average consumers to buy a desktop 3D
printer.
Today’s personal 3D printers work predominantly with plastic. Although the word “plastic” is
often connoted with low-cost materials, 3D printing plastic is not necessarily cheap. In fact, the
costs of filament plastic amount to a significant part of the costs of running a 3D printer with
about € 30 per cartridge (Lipson & Kurman, 2013). Most 3D printer manufacturers offer their
own proprietary material and lock in their customers via a “razor and blades-business model”.
That is, producers give away the 3D printers at low prices but require customers to buy
proprietary, vendor-specific filament – the only ones that fits in the printer – at rather high
prices (Lipson & Kurman, 2013).
Table 7: Overview over most popular desktop 3D printers2. Source: Own research.
Model
Producer
Maximal object
size
Print speed
(mm/sec)
Print time (min)
Materials
Price per
Printer
Price of
Filament
Makerbot
Replicator 2
Ultimaker 1
Makerbot
Replicator 2X
Makerbot
Industries
28,5 x 15,3 x 15,5
cm
90
Ultimaking Ltd.
18 min for an
average
smartphone case
PLA & Flexible
30 min for an
average
smartphone case
PLA & ABS
(supported), PCL,
HDPE, PP,
PMMA (known
to work)
1.194,00 €
32,00 € /
Cartridge
(0,75kg)
~15,32 €, ~98 € /
Cartridge (1kg )
~1.604,00 € (
~35,00 €, 98 € /
Cartridge (1kg )
21,0 x 21,0 x 22,0
cm
~ 400
Makerbot
Industries
25 x 16 x 15 cm
Prusai3 Single
Sheet
Frame/Box
Frame
RepRap
Ultimaker 2
Ultimaking Ltd.
20 x 20 x20 cm/
20 x 20 x 27 cm
80-200
23 x 22,5 x 20,5
cm
30-300
10 min for an
average
smartphone case
ABS, PLA, &
Flexible
>40 min for an
average
smartphone case
PLA & ABS
30 min for an
average
smartphone case
PLA & ABS
2.790,00 €
300-1000 €/ 300800$
n.a.
1.895,00 €
200
32,00 € /
Cartridge
(0,75kg)
3.3.1.2 Trends
Today’s desktop 3D printers use fused deposition molding (FDM) as a manufacturing process.
Yet, with the expiration of patents for 3D printing technologies, machines based on alternative
additive manufacturing processes, such as stereolithography have recently entered the market
for personal 3D printers. The recent release of the first desktop 3D printers based on selective
laser sintering is only the logical advancement in a rapidly evolving industry (Molitch-Hou,
2014f). The Ice9 and the Ice1 are laser sintering printers for home use priced at around 25.700€
and 9.800€ and are rather expensive. Both printers have substantial printing sizes, with the Ice1
Selection of printers based on 3D Hubs’ most recent Trend Report of June 2014 encompassing an international
community of 6.887 registered local 3D printers (3DHubs, 2014). It has to be considered that the numbers are
slanted somewhat by the fact that 3D Hubs is particularly popular in Europe, where it launched first. This accounts
for Ultimaker's huge documented popularity. The printer sold in greater numbers in Europe, as compared to other
continents.
2
39
comparing to most desktop FDM machines and the Ice9 larger than most. At the same time,
both printers produce much finer surface finishes and definition than FDM-based machines and
will not need added support structures, since the powder bed acts as the support (Molitch-Hou,
2014f).
Alongside innovations in the manufacturing processes, improvements in the materials printable
have been made for household 3D printers. MatterFab has only recently launched an affordable
3D metal printer for end users paving the way for broader application areas of personal printers.
Because, over the past twenty years, sensors, computers, and other components necessary for
3D metal printing have reduced in price, Burris and his partner, Dave Warren, were able to
develop the prototype for a low-cost 3D metal printer, which is now hitting the market (MolitchHou, 2014d).
Apart from constant innovations in the 3D printing hardware market, the advancement in 3D
software is just as groundbreaking. Software providers have realized that the “future of design
software is to make it easier to move back and forth between software and reality” (Lipson &
Kurman, 2013) meaning that their goal is to make it easier for users to manipulate digital data.
Teams at Carnegie Mellon University and Berkeley University of California have recently
launched their Object Manipulation 3D (OM3D) software, which makes it possible to fully
manipulate a 3D object within a regular 2D photograph (Sher, 2014a). OM3D uses the publicly
available 3D models that correspond to the object needed to be modified and seamlessly works
it into the photo. As a result, any hidden area of the 2D object’s geometry becomes visible in
the 3D representation. In this way, object manipulations that would be impossible in traditional
2D photo-editing programs are enabled, such as turning a car over, making a paper-crane flap
its wings, or manipulating airplanes in a historical photograph to change its story (Kholgade,
Simon, Efros, & Sheikh, 2014). In another context, this revolutionary software could be applied
to make pictures come alive by enabling users to print a single object of an image in 3D, thereby
rendering the lines between 2D and 3D even more blurry.
The effects of personal AM machines on the work environment are manifold. Desktop 3D
printers open up new opportunities for consumer empowerment and ultimately lead to new
forms of production and collaboration. Individuals are provided the tools, either through
affordable 3D printing hardware or streamlined outsourcing to engage in the act of making
directly (Ratto & Lee, 2012).
Alongside this empowerment, considerable shifts in consumer behavior can be noted. In the
contemporary world, consumers increasingly wish for individualized experiences and expect
that products are tailored to their specific needs. The newly emerging modes of customization
are decidedly consumer-driven. The “prosumer” (Ritzer & Jurgenson, 2010) is a model that
puts the consumer at the centre of product innovation and has been exerted most notably on
digital products including software. Now, facilitated by digital desktop fabrication, prosumer
modes of production are traversing from the digital to the material (Ratto & Lee, 2012). With
desktop 3D printers, consumers can design and produce new products easily themselves –
tailored exactly to meet their particular needs.
Also, so-called co-creation platforms are distinct types of mass customization that provide
prosumers with the opportunity to interactively personalize products in a way that encourages
them to feel more like ‘designers’ of objects rather than passive recipients. For example, end
users can download a certain basic design file from an online database, the specifications of
which they then alter to their distinct wills.
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As the boundaries between digital and physical production become increasingly blurry, so too
do conceptions of labor (Ratto & Lee, 2012). “Commons-based peer production” (Benkler,
2006), p.62), which is enabled by digital networks, has proven transformative in the digital
world by introducing modes of production of large projects (Linux, Wikipedia, etc.) based on
collaboration and the widely distributed contributions by many, as opposed to mass production
from a centralized source. Hence, 3D printing may act as a catalyst for cloud manufacturing a
network of decentralized manufacturing firms (Lipson & Kurman, 2013).
Not only does 3D printing allow for decentralized production, also it promotes the division and
distribution of labor. While traditionally the processes of product idea, design and
manufacturing were done by the same entity, 3D printing allows and even encourages splitting
the work. Designers and manufacturers do not necessarily have to be the same person anymore,
neither do they have to know each other personally. This way of working opens up whole new
opportunities spurring product innovation.
3.3.1.3 User needs and motivation of end-users
The diverse business models emerging in the consumer 3D printing market offer consumers the
possibility to fulfill their needs using 3D printing technology. Depending on different needs and
situational requirements, four categories of items, as depicted in table 8, can be identified. These
categories build on the theory of Maslow’s pyramid of needs (Maslow, 1943) and a model by
Marshall Rosenberg (Rosenberg, 2003).
Table 8: Consumer needs fulfilled by 3D Printing. Source: Own research.
Type of Item
Functional Items
Need Fulfilled
Necessities
Examples
Spare Parts, Tools
Entertainment Items
Dice, Board Games, Miniatures
Customized Items
Leisure Needs/ Belonging and/or Self
Esteem
Self-Actualization Needs - Creativity
Specialized Items
Self-Actualization Needs - Problem Solving
Prototypes, Prosthetic Hands
Jewelry, Phone Cases, Lamps
Maslow’s pyramid including physiological needs as the basic stage, safety needs, love or
belonging, esteem and self-actualization as the highest stage of needs, claims that humans enter
a new stage of needs only if they could fulfill the needs of the stage below (Maslow, 1943).
Marshall Rosenberg developed another model that extends Maslow’s basic categories. He also
includes the categories of physical nurturance, autonomy, independence and spiritual
communion, which can also be found in Maslow’s pyramid. In addition, he extends the model
with more concrete needs for entertainment, celebration and play (Rosenberg, 2003).
The following section applies these theoretical models of human needs to desktop 3D printing
to identify the needs consumers aim to fulfill by printing specific items.
Functional items are printed by consumers with the purpose to recreate or improve conditions
and tasks in their daily routines. By that, functional items help users fulfill the needs of basic
necessities such as replacing a broken part or printing a part that doesn’t exist or isn’t accessible
on the market. Spare parts and tools as well as mechanical parts are examples for functional
items with which the consumers can fulfill basic needs.
41
Based on Maslow’s theory, humans need self-esteem and a feeling of belonging once basic
functional and physiological needs are fulfilled. 3D prints of entertainment items fulfill this
need and also the need for recreation, play and spiritual needs (Rosenberg, 2003).
3D printing creates an opportunity for customization. By producing one item at a time, the buyer
can be engaged when creating the product and his input shapes the final object (Gannes, 2014).
However, customized items not only fulfill the need for an individualized item, rather target
consumers’ need for self-actualization through the process of creative development 3D printing
offers. Statistics show that on Shapeways for example, more than 50% of the objects existing
in 2013 can be classified as “entertainment” items: 23% from the models are miniatures, 17%
art objects and 11% games and toys (Shapeways, 2014b).
Specialized items are items that the average user does not need, but they add great value for a
specific group of users with particular needs. Consumers have the possibility to serve their
special needs like rare illnesses by developing and printing their personalized solution. One
example is a father who designed and printed a prosthetic hand for his son due to the lack of
financial resources for buying one (Huffington, 2013). Consumer 3D printing fulfills
consumers’ needs by providing a tool to realize their own solutions to their personal problems.
3.3.2 Case studies
3.3.2.1 3D printer manufacturers
General Description: Desktop 3D printers make additive manufacturing available for
consumers (PCmag, 2014). Originating from AM machines, which have been used since 1982
(redOrbit, 2014), so-called desktop 3D printers are an emergent and affordable smaller version
for end consumers. With the expiration of the first patents for FDM machines and the formation
of the open source community RepRap, which freely disseminated 3D printer technology, small
startups were able to enter the market. With their entry, prices and also the size of the printers
started to decrease while quality improved (West & Kuk, 2014). Since the patent for SLS
printing technology expired in January 2014, companies started to offer printers based on SLS
in addition to the prevailing FDM technology (Templeton, 2014).
Case Description: MakerBot, the most noted manufacturer for consumer 3D printers (Sharma,
2013a), was founded by Bre Petis in 2009 and is located in Brooklyn, New York (Huffington,
2014). The firm is one of the most successful startups emerging out of the open-source
community environment and developed from a startup with deep Do-it-yourself (DIY) roots to
one of the most important player in the market (Lipson & Kurmann, 2013; Sharma, 2013a).
Building on the open hardware technology of RepRap (RepRap.org, 2013), MakerBot was the
first to launch a line of commercial and affordable 3D printers (interview 14, 2014; Huffington
Post, 2014).
MakerBot offers 3D printer kits and ready-assembled printers for consumer and small
businesses (Sharma, 2013a). The simple and easy-to-use printers are offered in different
variations which are segmented in three categories. Table 9 provides an overview of
MakerBot’s product portfolio. The Mini is the smallest and lightest printer suitable for amateurs
without deep technical knowledge. The Replicator is bigger and heavier and tailored to a more
42
experienced and skilled user base. It is equipped with an improved layer dissolution of the prints
and hence, fulfills higher requirements (MakerBot, 2014). The tallest and most expensive
printer is the ultra-large Z18, which is targeted at small manufacturing shops (Biggs, 2014). All
printers are based on the FDM technology and possess Wifi and USB ports (MakerBot, 2014).
Table 9: Overview of MakerBot’s product portfolio. Source: Makerbot, 2014
Product Name
Price
Measures
Weight
MakerBot
Replicator Mini
MakerBot
Replicator
MakerBot
Replicator Z18
1.599 €
31,0L X 29,5B X 38,1H
cm
52,8L X 44,1B X 41,0H
cm
49,3L X 56,5B X 85,4H
cm
8 Kg
Layer
Dissolution
0,2 mm
16 Kg
0,1 mm
41Kg
0,1 mm
3.190 €
6.990 €
Up to now, the company has sold over 22.000 desktop 3D printers (Lobosco, 2013). MakerBot
aims at high consumer-friendliness through affordable prices and simple printer design (Lipson
& Kurmann, 2013). In 2013, MakerBot has been acquired by Stratasys, an established
manufacturer which offers mainly industrial rapid prototyping based on FDM technology, at an
amount of $400 million (Huffington Post, 2014; Sharma, 2013a).
Competitors: Besides MakerBot many startups have entered the consumer 3D printing market,
offering mainly FDM technology based printers (Templeton, 2014). Examples are Ultimaker,
based in the Netherlands, and AIORobotics, based in the US (Ultimaker, 2014; AIORobotics,
2014). Sharebot, an Italy based producer of desktop 3D printers is extending its FDM printers
with the SLS technology and is one of the first to offer this technology affordable for the
consumer market (Sher, 2014b).
3.3.2.2 3D model marketplaces and search engines
General Description: 3D model marketplaces are virtual maker-to-consumer platforms that
allow designers or other individuals to share their 3D models with other users. The foundation
for the sharing community or peer-to-peer movement was laid by services like Napster, which
allowed users to directly connect to each other and transfer files from one computer to the other.
Through these services, people realized for the first time that they could have a social impact
using the Internet (Oram, 2001, p. viii). In the following years, pioneers like Wikipedia’s Jimmy
Wales and YouTube’s Chad Hurley pushed the idea further, resulting in what we now call the
Maker Movement. Today, these kinds of platforms are ubiquitous and have influenced
behaviors of online social networks (Botsman & Rogers, 2010). Maker-to-consumer platforms
are an offspring of this development and allow people without any design aspirations to print
3D objects, thereby pushing the application of 3D printing technologies further.
The scope of these 3D printing platforms ranges from the sole provision of a platform for the
exchange of 3D files to an end-to-end service including printing and shipping of the desired
object. The latter form will be covered separately in section 3.2.2.3.
Case Description: Thingiverse is a design community for discovering, making and sharing 3Dprintable models that was founded in November 2009 by Zach Smith. The platform is hosted
by MakerBot Industries, a New York City based hardware manufacturing company specialized
43
in 3D printers (see section 3.2.2.1). With over 100.000 3D models and 130.000 members,
Thingiverse is the world’s largest 3D printing community. Thingiverse encourages users to
publish their files under a creative commons license. This allows users with little previous
experience or technical expertise to build on existing 3D models and to create their own
customized versions, which therefore maximizes the number of available files. Opposed to 3D
printing marketplaces, files offered on Thingiverse.com can be downloaded free of charge.
Thingiverse solely acts as a platform for the exchange of files and does not provide any printing
services (Thingiverse.com, 2014). The goal of Thingiverse is not to make money in the first
place. The platform is intended to create content and awareness for its parent company
MakerBot. Content creation is important, as MakerBot was one of the first companies to
produce 3D printers and they were facing a common problem for companies relying on network
effects: Their 3D printers, which mainly target private persons, were not attractive as there were
no files that could be printed. Simultaneously, the low diffusion of consumer 3D printers caused
a lack of available 3D models. Thus, MakerBot decided to overcome the problem by founding
a platform to generate content for their 3D printers. According to interviewee 13 and 14,
Thingiverse’s content still lacks a clear structure and is to some extent of medium quality. This
stands out against their first mover advantage, allowing more and more competitors to enter the
market.
Competitors: Another provider of free 3D printing models is Wamungo. The Munich based
company offers models of 21 different categories ranging from toys to car utensils. Identifying
themselves as the platform of the maker-movement, Wamungo organizes a 3D print award
seeking broader attention and additional members (Wamungo.de, 2014).
Yeggi, another German based company, offers their customers to search among thousands of
3D model files from different websites. After inserting a particular search term, the platform
provides the user with various possibilities where he can download the model for free.
3.3.2.3 E-commerce: 3D printed object marketplaces
General Description: The business of 3D printed object marketplaces consists of two parts: a
virtual and a physical one. The virtual part is a two-sided online platform that connects
designers and end-users similar to the 3D model marketplaces. However, in comparison to
these, 3D printed object marketplaces integrate production and shipping of the 3D objects as
the physical part in their business model. Thus, users receive the printed objects instead of the
3D model files and designers can decide to keep the models themselves confidential.
Case Description: Shapeways was originally founded by Peter Weijmarshausen, Marleen
Vogelaar, and Robert Schouwenburg in the Royal Philipps Electronics incubator in the
Netherlands in 2007 and is today based in New York City. It is a 3D printed object marketplace
that provides value to designers and end-users. It provides designers with the infrastructure to
open their own online shops for offering their designed objects to the world. Designers can
upload their model files, which they created before using any 3D design software or use a simple
online design software. End-users can browse the huge range of designer stores and offered
products, sometimes slightly customize the products by choosing from various material or
colors, and order the objects. Individuals and companies can also send their own 3D model files
in order to receive printed objects without selling it to third parties. Shapeways categorizes all
44
offered objects and arranges them in an online catalogue using seven categories, which also
reveal the current focus. Table 10 provides an overview thereof (Shapeways, 2014a).
Table 10: Overview of Shapeways‘ product catalogue. Source: Shapeways, 2014a
Category
Description
Gadgets
Mainly functional items of small robotics,
drones, etc. aiming at tinkerers/makers
Belts, cases for smartphones and other devices,
> 19.000
keychains, etc.
Bracelets, cufflinks, earrings, necklaces, rings,
> 28.000
etc. available also in gold and silver
Artistic objects like sculputures, and 3D
> 28.000
expressions of mathematical art and memes
Household objects like vases, cups, egg cups,
> 8.000
clocks, lamp shades
Dice, puzzles, complements for board games,
> 67.000
spinning tops, etc.
Figurines and miniatures of vehicles, model
> 62.000
trains or the like
* Objects can appear in more than one category
Accessories
Jewellery
Art
Home
Games
Miniatures
Number of
Products*
> 17.000
Besides their online platform, Shapeways’ key resources are their production sites consisting
of more than fifty 3D printers (Lipson&Kurman, 2013). These applied machines are not desktop
3D printers as described in section 3.2.2.1, but rather professional high quality, highly priced
industrial additive manufacturing machines from the company EOS GmbH (Halperin, 2014).
Shapeways aggregates thousands of orders to ensure a high degree of machine utilization. Thus,
economies of scale do not only lead to profitability of the machines – even though used for
producing everyday objects for end-users – but also allow Shapeways to offer its customers a
large variety of different materials. In total, more than 120.000 products per month are printed
and shipped (Shapeways, 2014b).
The revenue model works similar to Apple’s AppStore: for objects sold through the Shapeways
platform, designers receive 10% of the price while 90% remain with Shapeways.
In addition to that core of the business, Shapeways also helps designers with tutorials, tools,
forums and thus, manages an active online community around the topic of 3D design and puts
designers in contact with companies and brands looking to get into the upcoming topic of 3D
printing (Kurutz, 2014; Shapeways, 2014a). The on-demand production model of Shapeways
lowers risks and entry barriers for designers to start their own businesses. Even though most
designers with products on Shapeways create objects as a hobby or as a side job, first companies
were founded basing their business on the Shapeways infrastructure to produce and offer their
products (Kurutz, 2014).
Competitors: Other players using similar business models for entering the 3D printing market
are the France-based Sculpteo, the Belgium-based i.Materialize, the Texas-based Kraftwurx
and since July 2014, also US-based Amazon.com. The newly started Amazon 3D printing store
sees a special value in offering further customization options to customers (Krassenstein,
2014a; Amazon, 2014; i.Materialize, 2014; Kraftwurx, 2014; Sculpteo, 2014).
45
3.3.2.4 In-store 3D printing services
General Description: In-store 3D printing services offer customers to use and experience 3D
printing so that also non-tech-savvy end-users can try out the new possibilities of 3D printing
technologies without having to invest a lot of their money and time. Besides printing available
3D models (e.g., smart phone cases) from the store or from model marketplaces (see 3.2.2.2),
in-store 3D printing services also offer 3D scanning and support for using 3D modeling
software to customize models. Usually the service is combined with sales of 3D printing
hardware and, thus, offered by retail companies.
Case Description: Staples was one of the first large retailers to sell 3D printers and materials
to consumers (Karlin, 2014). They also already started in 2013 to experiment with a 3D printing
service in Europe (Brustein, 2014; Karlin, 2014). For this service, which they called “Staples
Easy 3D”, the company cooperated with Mcor Technologies – a company that sells 3D printers,
which use paper as material and are able to print multi-colored objects. However, it was not yet
a full-in-store service, but rather a service similar to the above described 3D object marketplaces
(Senese, 2012; Sharma, 2013c). Since April 2014, Staples cooperates with the 3D printing
company 3DSystems to test “3D printing as a service with immersive 3D printing experience
centers” (3DSystems, 2014) in New York City and Los Angeles as the first two locations in the
United States (Brustein, 2014). In these experience centers, customers can use 3D printers to
create personalized 3D objects. The purpose today is not mainly to sell the printing service, but
rather to let consumers and small business owners learn about the possibilities of 3D printing,
and vice versa: Staples and 3DSystems aim to learn more about possible use-cases and about
the development of the desktop 3D printing market by interacting with their customers. Thus,
both companies have experts and graphic design consultants in both experience centers for
helping customers, which are new to the area of 3D printing, to use 3D equipment. Besides the
3D printing, customers can also use 3D scanning photo booths for example to capture their own
faces as 3D images for customizing figurines. 3D objects can be printed instantly in-store or in
case of a longer printing time they can also be printed through 3DSystems and shipped to the
customers (3DSystems, 2014; Brustein, 2014; Marks, 2014).
Competitors: The San-Diego based UPS Store collaborated with the Israeli-American 3D
printer company Stratasys and together, they launched a test program of retail 3D printing
services in six of their shops in the US (3Ders, 2013c; Stratasys, 2013). UPS was the first USwide retailer testing in-store 3D printing services (UPS, 2013). Florida-based OfficeDepot also
cooperates with 3DSystems to offer first in-store test centers (Sharma, 2013c). iGo3D is
Germany’s first in-store 3D printing service shop. The so-called iGo3D concept store is located
in Oldenburg and opened in September 2013. Besides in-store services, it also acts as a 3D
printing hardware retailer without focusing on only one main 3D printing manufacturer as
partner, but rather offers a range of 3D printers (3Ders, 2013b; iGo3D, 2014).
46
3.3.3 Outlook: The world of 3D printing from the consumer perspective
As described above, 3D printing is today nearly only used by tech-savvy early adopters, the socalled ‘makers’. This section provides a glimpse into the future of 3D printing from the eyes of
a usual consumer. But as predictions are very difficult, especially if they are about the future as
it was allegedly formulated by Mark Twain, this is not a forecast, but rather a description of
four different possible scenarios that might evolve in the upcoming years. These scenarios were
partly developed in the CDTM course ‘3D printing’ and are based on an extensive literature
review, conducted expert interviews and fruitful discussions of researchers and students.
Possible signposts pointing into the direction of the presented scenarios are given with each
scenario descriptions and an evaluation of all four scenarios analyzing expert opinions on future
developments follows in section 3.3.3.5.
3.3.3.1 Scenario 1: One household – one printer
In this scenario, 3D printers will find their place directly in people’s homes. This can be
imagined in a similar way as personal computers have evolved over the last decades from only
few PCs in the homes of early adopters in the eighties to almost everyone having one from the
years 2000 onwards. In the “one household - one printer” scenario, each household will have
its own 3D printer which could fulfill their daily needs. Thus, consumers operate the 3D desktop
printers themselves and print objects, which they designed themselves or which they
downloaded from model marketplaces. As in the case with PCs, the availability of low price
printers will be decisive for this scenario becoming reality. As prices drop sharply since
important patents expired, this can be interpreted as a signpost pointing into the direction of this
scenario. Other signposts would be the increase of printing speed and increasing capabilities of
desktop printers as a growing range of printable materials or multi-color options. Another
barrier that needs to be overcome for this scenario is the still low usability of available desktop
3D printers.
Figure 5: Schematic visualization of scenario 1: One household – one printer. Source: Own illustration. Icons attributed to the following
designers from The Noun Project: User by Doug Cavendish, User by Wilson Joseph, 3D Printer by Bryan Allen, House by Samuel
3.3.3.2 Scenario 2: 3D printing marketplaces
In scenario 2, consumers will mainly be in contact with 3D printing technologies via online 3D
printed object marketplaces comparable to the above presented case study. As described in
section 3.2.2.3, 3D printed object marketplaces have two groups of users: the designers, who
can upload, print and even sell their designs to others and the consumers, who can buy the
47
designs, having them shipped to their location. In comparison to the scenarios 1 and 3, the
current one requires less knowledge from the consumers regarding the use of 3D printers and
the underlying technologies. Consumers without any prior knowledge could browse offered
designs and purchase the 3D printed objects similarly to their behavior in other e-commerce
shops. Users with design knowledge can create their own 3D models or customize existing
models. Finally, printing the objects would not require any technical knowledge, as everything
is “outsourced” to the 3D printed object marketplace (see Figure 6).
Signpost pointing into the direction of this scenario: The possibility to use a wide range of
materials will remain to be limited to expensive industrial 3D printers and requirements
regarding maintenance will not decrease significantly. Also, if the range of applications will
stay limited and thus, the number of objects consumers print by themselves would stay small,
it would point into the direction of this scenario.
Figure 6: Schematic visualization of scenario 2: 3D printing marketplaces. Source: Own illustration. Icons attributed to the following
designers from The Noun Project: User by Doug Cavendish, Statue by Simon Child, User by Wilson Joseph, 3D Printer by Bryan
Allen
3.3.3.3 Scenario 3: 3D copy-shop economy
In this scenario, the production of 3D printed objects is dominated by local shops comparable
to the classic 2D printing copy-shops. Such shops will provide the hardware, printing materials,
and support for consumers. They could also offer additional services as 3D scanning. Customers
can receive their object instantly just as today customers take their 2D prints with them from
any copy shop (see Figure 7). Shops will charge their customers per object with regard to the
actual costs incurring.
Signposts pointing into the direction of this scenario are high maintenance requirements of 3D
printers, an increased printing speed as this would allow printing on-demand and thus, it would
increase the perceived inconvenience of the shipping duration in scenario 2.
One imaginable business case for this scenario is the provision of spare parts to consumers.
Manufacturer could issue the printing job to the nearest 3D printing shop and the consumer can
then pick up the spare part at her earliest convenience already within several hours. The
manufacturer would not be required to maintain a large stock of all the possible spare parts and
thus could minimize storage costs.
Another aspect of this scenario might be that 3D printing shops might lead to local 3D printing
communities. In such a setting, people can help each other with the design and operation of the
software and technology. In already existing maker hubs in Munich parents sign up their kids
for workshops as they think that this will give them an advantage for their professional future.
48
Figure 7: Schematic visualization of scenario 3: 3D Copy-Shop Economy. Source: Own illustration. Icons attributed to the following
designers from The Noun Project: User by Doug Cavendish, Geometry by Ilsur Aptukov, Shop by Ahmed Elzahra, Community-HeapthAdvocate by Edward Boatman (edited). Speed by Tim Boelaars, 3D Printer by Bryan Allen
3.3.3.4 Scenario 4: 3D printing behind the scenes
Scenario 4 describes a world in which 3D printing technologies will not be visible to consumers.
Instead, Consumers will be provided with more customization options as today for all kinds of
products, but it is not important to them how the individualization of their products will be
realized technically. Thus, conventional manufacturers will expand their product portfolio,
offer more customization options and will use 3D printing technologies in their production.
However, consumers will buy the finished products as they are shopping today in stores or via
e-commerce shops.
This scenario is probable, if usability of 3D printing technologies cannot be increased
significantly, maintenance requirements will and prices for multi-material and multi-color
printers stay high. Another signpost pointing into this direction is an ongoing high brand
awareness of consumers.
3.3.3.5 Evaluation of the presented scenarios
While companies like Makerbot work for the realization of scenario 1 with their products
entering ordinary households, others like Shapeways are instead promoting the path of
decentralized creativity with centralized manufacturing (Halperin, 2014). Big names from the
industry believe in scenario 1. For instance, Andy Bird, the chairman of Walt Disney
International, foresees this scenario: "I think every home within 10 years, probably less than
that, will have its own 3D printer, just as many homes now have a 2D or laser printer" (3Ders,
2013a). Others are not as optimistic about the “one household – one printer” scenario. For
example an artist, who offers 3D printing workshops in Munich, compared 3D printing with
sewing machines: “not everybody has one at home”. In his opinion, 3D printing will be used as
a service: either in open spaces or online platforms (interview 11, 2014). The quick growth of
3D object printing marketplaces such as the above presented Shapeways in recent years
indicates a high probability of a further development into the direction of scenario 2 in the nearfuture (see section 3.2.2.3). Further, experts promote the opinion that the topic of 3D printing
for consumers is currently hyped and that the future will rather develop into the direction of the
scenario ‘3D printing behind the scenes’ (interview 1, 2014).
Different use cases might require different modus operandi as described in the form of the four
different scenarios. For example, prints of expensive and seldom used materials such as gold
will probably never be produced in low-cost desktop 3D printers designed for household use.
With regards to the offered variety of materials, 3D printing copy shops as envisioned in
49
scenario 3 will never be able to compete with more centralized production facilities as described
in scenario 2, but will have an advantage in use cases of on-demand-needs with fast-to-print
and low-cost materials.
Thus, the emerging field of 3D printing technologies is still in an early phase especially
regarding their applications and use cases from the perspective of consumers. The real world in
one or two decades from now will certainly not look exactly like one of the presented scenarios,
but it will rather be a combination of these and it is not yet clear which one will be dominant.
50
4. Macro-Environmental Assessment
After the case-based examination of AM technology in chapter 3, the following section puts the
topic in a broader context and explores 3D printing from different macro-environmental
directions. The structure of this analysis has been derived from the PESTLE-framework with
the goal to sketch the role of 3D printing technology in its external environment. Thereby, the
assessment comprises mutual influences (i.e. how AM influences and is influenced) between
the technology and areas of broader societal interest. Accordingly, the chapter is structured as
follows: The first section (4.1) explores in how far 3D printing is supported in different
countries by public actors in form of research funds and other activities. Furthermore, the
section provides examples of relevant research institutions dealing with AM-related topics in
each investigated country. In the second chapter (4.2), thoughts on the economic influences and
the market potential of AM technology are discussed. The third section (4.3) consolidates the
results of chapter 3 and sums up the impacts 3D printing might have on society. This is followed
by a description of the legal framework 3D printing is currently embedded in, with an emphasis
on the important area of intellectual property (4.4). The last chapter discusses environmental
aspects of 3D printing (4.5). Since technological trends have been exhaustively discussed in the
previous chapter, this topic – usually a part of the PESTLE-framework – has been deliberately
omitted.
4.1 Public support and research activities
“The technology is coming whether we like it or not” says Michael Weinberg, vice president
of the Institute of Emerging Innovation and Public Knowledge and a 3D printing expert (Henn,
2013). Various scholars, for instance Sissons and Thompson (2012), go even further by stating
that an economy could benefit enormously from AM technology and generate first mover
advantages, if it both supported advancements in fundamental research and managed to
establish a well-functioning regulatory framework. Thus, legislators and policy-makers need to
acknowledge that they cannot block 3D printing technology, but should rather seek policies,
methods and tools to be well equipped for upcoming changes.
Steering the 3D printing ecosystem is, however, a complex endeavor. Scholars argue that key
challenges are to regulate the negative effects that 3D printing might have (e.g. in terms of
safety and liability issues), as well as to balance the protection of incumbents and patent holders,
whilst removing regulatory barriers to innovation and market growth in these areas (Desai &
Magliocca, 2013; Osborn, 2013; Lipson & Kurman, 2010; Sisson & Thompson, 2012; Susson,
2013).
Therefore, public policy should actively promote and support 3D printing activities to enable
the development of a thriving 3D printing landscape. This includes the funding of fundamental
research activities and collaborative research clusters as well as the development of programs
that support 3D printing on every societal level (e.g. educational programs, startup funding or
industry subsidies) (Lipson & Kurman, 2010; Sisson & Thompson, 2012).
The awareness of the potential of AM is rapidly growing worldwide. Governmental institutions,
research institutes and practitioners in various different countries have recognized the need for
51
action and aim to develop AM technologies further. Currently, the USA, the UK and Germany
assume leading roles concerning initiating programs for AM research and application. This
becomes evident in the number of publications the individual countries issue (Gausemeier,
Wall, & Peter, 2013) as well as the total investment the countries appropriate to AM-related
research (Dickens, Reeves, & Hague, 2012).
The goal of the following section is to shed light on current practices and public activities in
the area of 3D printing across various countries. Therefore, a short profile including general
information and a table overview of relevant research institutes of each investigated region or
country was developed. The data for the profiles were collected via desk research using the
institutes’ websites and from information provided in the Direct Manufacturing Research
Group’s report on the research landscape in Europe (Gausemeier et al., 2013).
4.1.1 Germany
In Germany, AM research is spread across a number of research institutes and universities that
have different research foci. From 2003 until 2013, the German Government granted research
funding in the amount of 21,2 Mio. Euro to AM-related research activities (Deutscher
Bundestag, 2013). The following paragraphs provide examples of leading institutes and
research clusters in Germany.
Within the German Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Fraunhofer Alliance Rapid Prototyping unites
the competences of 12 institutes in the field of solid freeform fabrication (SFF), which marks
the institute’s focal point of research (Ader et al., 2004).
At the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT) in Aachen, extensive work in the field
of direct metal laser fabrication is conducted (ILT, 2014). Researchers at the ILT have
conceptualized a LENS-type direct metal machine and produced molds in a wide range of
metals, as well as industrial parts for aerospace applications. Further, the research team
developed the Selective Laser Melting (SLM) process, a variation of SLS that is able to produce
completely dense parts (Dickens et al., 2012).
The Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology (IPT) in Aachen works on combining
layered manufacturing with subtractive machining (IPT, 2014). Controlled Metal Build-Up
(CMB) has been developed by the IPT and is a LENS-type process that included a machining
step after each layer build. Both powder and wire feeds are used. High-speed 3-axis milling is
performed after every build step (Dickens et al., 2012).
At the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials (IFAM) in
Bremen, work is mainly focused on practice-oriented research in Adhesive Bonding
Technology and Surfaces as well as Shaping and Functional Materials. The institute's two
divisions belong to the largest independent research organizations in Europe.
Besides the coordinated efforts at the Frauhofer institutes, AM research is also conducted at
several universities and other organizations in Germany.
The Direct Manufacturing Research Center (DMRC) is a proactive collaboration of key
technology suppliers and lead users who have a common interest in advancing AM technologies
from Rapid Prototyping to reliable Direct Manufacturing (DM) technologies – meaning, the
application of AM in series production (Gausemeier et al., 2013). In 2008, the DMRC was
founded and began its work at the University of Paderborn, Germany. Eight professors
52
constitute an interdisciplinary team performing research on the transition of AM towards DM.
The federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the cooperating companies contributed a total
of €11 million for the time frame from 2009 to 2016 to support the research work (Gausemeier
et al., 2013).
The Collaborative Research Center 814 Additive Manufacturing is a research center at the
University of Erlangen-Nuremberg with a focus on additive production. Under the leadership
of Professor Dr.-Ing. Drummer, 35 researchers work on the better understanding of the behavior
of powders within the additive manufacturing process. The CRC 814 was established in July
2011 with a budget of €7.3 million and €1.4 million (Universität Duisburg-Essen, 2014)
respectively contributed by both the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the federal state
of Bavaria (Gausemeier et al., 2013).
The University of Technology in Hamburg-Harburg (TUHH) has established itself as an
institution in the fields of teaching of engineering students as well as research and development
for scientific and industrial applications. Founded in 2012 at the TUHH, the Institute of Laser
and System Technologies (iLAS) has already successfully finished numerous industrial R&D
projects in the area of laser material processing (iLAS, 2014).
The main focus of research activities of the Rapid Technology Center (RTC), an initiative
established in 2011 at the University of Duisburg-Essen, is working on recent problems
regarding the transition from Rapid Prototyping (RP) to Rapid Manufacturing (RM) (RTC,
2014). Prof. Gerd Witt is chairman of the Committee on Rapid Prototyping at the VDI and is
an appointed reviewer at the AiF (Arbeitsgemeinschaft industrieller Forschungsvereinigungen)
(Gausemeier et al., 2013; Universität Duisburg-Essen, 2014).
Research institutions in Germany
The following list provides an exemplary overview of relevant research institutions in the area
of additive manufacturing in Germany. The list does not claim to be complete.
Collaborative Research Center 814 – Additive Manufacturing
University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (FAU)
Task Force/ Department /
Chair
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dietmar Drummer
Person Responsible
Dipl.-Ing. Maximilian Drexler
CRC 814 is a collaborative research center for additive manufacturing within
Short Description
the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. The CRC is an ideal complement to
the EAM (Engineering of Advanced Materials). In the project area E of the
EAM, materials for light- weight construction are developed and investigated,
but up to now without the possibility of additive manufacturing. The CRC
closely cooperates with the Bavarian Laser Center (blz).
Powder bed fusion; build-up rates; material properties; process and part
Focal Point of Research
tolerances; design rules; combining processes; software tools; product
optimization
Direct Manufacturing Research Center (DMRC)
University of Paderborn
Task Force/ Department /
Chair
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Hans-Joachim Schmid
Person Responsible
Dr.-Ing. Eric Klemp
The Direct Manufacturing Research Center (DMRC) is a research center of the
Short Description
University of Paderborn and constitutes a proactive collaboration of key
technology stakeholders from industry and academia, who have a common
interest in advancing Rapid Prototyping technology into dependable, direct
manufacturing technology.
53
Focal Point of Research
For its research work, the Direct Manufacturing Research Center was awarded
as “Ort des Fortschritts” by the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research
of the State of North Rhine Westphalia on 25th November 2011.
Powder bed fusion, material extrusion, build-up rates, manufacturing costs,
material properties, process and part tolerances, design rules, product
optimization,
Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials (IFAM)
Fraunhofer IFAM, Bremen
Task
Force/Department/Chair
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Matthias Busse
Person Responsible
Prof. Dr. Bernd Mayer
The Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced
Short Description
Materials (IFAM) in Bremen focuses on practice-oriented research in Adhesive
Bonding Technology and Surfaces as well as Shaping and Functional Materials.
The institute's two divisions, are amongst the largest independent research
organizations in Europe. Founded in 1949, the IFAM develops products and
processes to the stage of application. The institute is strongly cross-linked within
the Fraunhofer Additive Manufacturing Alliance.
Powder bed fusion; material extrusion; binder jetting; manufacturing costs;
Focal Point of Research
material properties; process and part tolerances; design rules; combining
processes; product optimization; software tools
Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT)
Task
Fraunhofer IFAM, Bremen
Force/Department/Chair
Person Responsible
Dr. rer. nat. Konrad Wissenbach
Dr.-Ing. Arnold Gillner
Short Description
The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT) is worldwide one of the
most important development and contract research institutes in the field of laser
development and laser application. The activities cover a wide range of areas
such as the development of new laser beam sources and components, precise
laser based metrology, testing technology and industrial laser processes. This
includes laser cutting, caving, drilling, welding and soldering as well as surface
treatment, micro processing and rapid manufacturing. The institute won the
North Rhine-Westphalia’s 2011 Innovation Award for Additive Manufacturing.
Focal Point of Research
Powder bed fusion; direct energy/metal deposition; build-up rates; build
chamber volume; manufacturing costs; material properties; process and part
tolerances; design rules; combining processes; product optimization;
simulation/thermo analysis
The Institute of Laser and System Technologies (iLAS)
Task
The Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg
Force/Department/Chair
Person Responsible
Prof. Dr.-Ing. C. Emmelmann
Short Description
The University of Technology Hamburg-Harburg (TUHH) has established itself
as an institution in the fields of teaching of engineering students, as well as
research and development for scientific and industrial applications. The Institute
of Laser and System Technologies (iLAS) was founded in 2001 at the TUHH
and has already successfully finished several industrial R&D projects in the
field of laser material processing. In 2009, the LZN Laser Center North GmbH
was founded as an application- oriented competence center, which operates as
a link between research and industry. Both institutes, LZN and iLAS, closely
cooperate.
Focal Point of Research
Powder bed fusion; direct energy/metal deposition; material properties; process
and part tolerances; combining processes; product optimization; new
manufacturing technologies
54
BMBF Digital Photonic Production Research Campus
Task
Photonics Cluster at RWTH Aachen
Force/Department/Chair
Person Responsible
Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Reinhart Poprawe
Short Description
The Photonics Cluster investigates ways to generate, shape and use light, in
particular as a tool in industrial production. The “Digital Photonic Production”
initiative of an RWTH Aachen University consortium was one of the ten
winners out of more than 90 applicants in a national competition of the German
Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Companies such as Trumpf GmbH
+ Co. KG, Jenoptik AG, and EdgeWave GmbH are already involved in the
cluster‘s activities. (
Focal Point of Research
Laser-based rapid manufacturing processes
Rapid Technology Center (RTC)
Task
Institute for Product Engineering, Faculty of Engineering University DuisburgForce/Department/Chair
Essen
Person Responsible
Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Gerd Witt
Short Description
The main focus of research activities of the Rapid Technology Center (RTC) is
on recent problems regarding the development from Rapid Prototyping (RP) to
Rapid Manufacturing (RM). Prof. Gerd Witt is chairman of the Committee on
Rapid Prototyping at the VDI and is a selected reviewer at the AiF
(Arbeitsgemeinschaft industrieller Forschungsvereinigungen).
Focal Point of Research
Powder bed fusion; material extrusion; powder jetting; manufacturing costs;
material properties; process and part tolerances; design rules; combining
processes; product optimization
4.1.2 The European Union
The European Union has shown organized efforts to make advances in additive manufacturing
technologies, as evident in various completed research projects. Already 15 years ago, the
European Commission funded a program entitled RAPTIA, which was a European thematic
network of research institutions, universities, and industry partners working with rapid tooling
(Beaman et al., 2004). After completion, a new seven-year program, NEXTRAMA, the
Network of Excellence in Rapid Manufacturing, funded by the European Union’s Sixth
Framework Program (FP6), followed the project. NEXTRAMA’s goal was to achieve efficient
and sustainable rapid manufacturing industrial processes through a broadly coordinated effort
to create a permanent support organization. Shared work, facilities knowledge, and experience
helped define the primary development themes and related research goals. Annual funding
levels of over €1.29 million per year were granted to the organization and management of the
project (Beaman et al., 2004).
Currently, around 20 active EU FP7 projects include work streams focused on additive
manufacturing. The active FP7 projects are worth a combined €99.3 million of public and
private sector investment, of which €84 million relate directly to AM aligned work packages
(Dickens et al., 2012).
Moreover, the EU has recognized the need for uniform standards and processes in the area of
additive manufacturing and initiated the so-called SASAM project, an initiative for Support
Action for Standardization in Additive Manufacturing.
SASAM's mission is to drive the growth of AM to efficient and sustainable industrial processes
by integrating and coordinating standardization activities for Europe (SASAM, 2014). Further
European initiatives such as the European Additive Manufacturing Group (EAMG) have been
55
formed during the past years, laying the basis for the further adoption of AM in Europe (EPMA,
2014).
Also the European Union’s ‘Horizon 2020’ program seeks to support and promote research and
innovation in advanced manufacturing and processes. Therefore, MANUFUTURE, an industry
lead initiative, was set up in 2004 and launched the European Factories of the Future Research
Association (EFFRA) in 2009. Under Horizon 2020, EFFRA aims at encouraging research on
production technologies by engaging in a public-private partnership (PPP) with the European
Union called 'Factories of the Future’. Research priorities are advanced manufacturing
processes, adaptive manufacturing systems, digital factories, human-centered manufacturing
and customer-focused manufacturing – topics that also include research on AM technologies
(EFFRA, 2014). In addition to the actions taken by EFFRA, AM technologies are considered
within the “Key Enabling Technologies” (KETs) of the Horizon 2020 research program.
Besides the coordinated European effort initiated by the European Union, European countries
are individually setting up government-academic-industrial centers and programs to support the
development of additive manufacturing capabilities.
Within Europe, the United Kingdom strives for the pioneering role in 3D printing research and
development activities. This is manifested in the UK’s superior financial input to AM research
as well as the great number of AM-related research publications (Dickens et al., 2012). Between
2007 and 2016, a total of around €99.8 million has either been invested, or has been committed
to be invested in AM research and technology transfer activities. Of this funding, the largest
proportion, €31.1 million has come directly from industry, with approximately €16.3 million
contributed each by the TSB, EU Framework Programs (FP6 & FP7), and the European
Regional Development Fund (ERDF) (Dickens et al., 2012). In the UK, the University of
Loughborough’s Additive Manufacturing Research Group (AMRG) as well as the University
of Nottingham’s Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing Research Group are among the
leading centers for AM research and development. There are major research efforts at the
University of Sheffield Center for Advanced Additive Manufacturing (AdAM).
Also in the rest of Europe, significant research activities are conducted in various research
institutions: Examples are the TNO in the Netherlands, an independent research organization
that especially pioneers in the area of food printing; the Institute for Rapid Product
Development at ETH Zurich in Switzerland and the Aalto University in Finland. Furthermore,
in Belgium, the Product Engineering, Machine Design and Automation Center as well as the
Sirris Research Center both belong to the leading institutions in the field of AM-related
research.
Research institutions in selected countries of the European Union
The following list provides an overview of relevant research institutions in the area of additive
manufacturing in selected countries of the European Union. The list does not claim to be
complete.
56
United Kingdom
Additive Manufacturing Research Group (AMRG)
School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Loughborough
Task
University
Force/Department/Chair
Prof. Russell Harris
Person Responsible
Short Description
The Additive Manufacturing Research Group (AMRG) at Loughborough
University ranks among the worlds‘ leading centers for AM research,
development and dissemination. The AMRG is funded by the EPSRC Centre
for Innovative Manufacturing in Additive Manufacturing.
Powder bed fusion; polymer vat; material extrusion; binder jetting; material
Focal Point of Research
jetting; hybrid; manufacturing costs; material properties; process and part
tolerances; design rules; software tools; product optimization
Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing Research Group
Faculty of Engineering, The University of Nottingham
Task
Force/Department/Chair
Prof. Richard Hague
Person Responsible
Ian Ashcroft,
Phil Dickens
Short Description
The Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing Research Group at the University
of Nottingham includes internationally leading academics and one of the
world’s most comprehensive additive manufacturing laboratories. It is
supported by state-of-art testing facilities. The group hosts the EPSRC Centre
for Innovative Manufacturing in Additive Manufacturing. Additionally, the
Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing Research Group is the annual host of
the International Conference on Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing.
Powder bed fusion; materials and process development; design-optimization
Focal Point of Research
software and business management
Centre for Advanced Additive Manufacturing (AdAM)
Department of Mechanical Engineering, The University of Sheffield
Task
Force/Department/Chair
Prof. Neil Hopkins
Person Responsible
The University of Sheffield conducts AM R&D across a wide range of
Short Description
disciplines. AM activity is performed under various different centers (including
The Mercury Centre and The Advanced Manufacturing Institute), within
different departments (including Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science
and Engineering, Civil and Structural Engineering and The School of Clinical
Dentistry) and through consultancy and spin out companies (including LimitState). Collectively, AM activity across the University comes under the name
“Advanced Additive Manufacturing” (AdAM).
Powder bed fusion; polymer vat; directed energy; binder and material jetting;
Focal Point of Research
anchorless SLM; build-up rates; manufacturing costs; material properties;
process tolerances; part tolerances; design rules; combining processes; product
optimization
Belgium
Sirris
Task
Force/Department/Chair
Person Responsible
Short Description
/
Thierry Dormal
SIRRIS is a Belgian research center for the technological industry. The Center
provides innovation and support technology transfer to 2,500 Belgian
companies in the sectors of metalworking, plastics, mechanical, electrical and
electronic engineering, information and communication technologies. Its
activity is split between R&D, information and services. SIRRIS has a European
top position in Additive Manufacturing since 1990 with research projects,
patents, and 17 AM technologies. In order to provide best support to the
industry, SIRRIS has developed networks with national and international
science and technology leaders. SIRRIS is very active in setting up new
standards for AM technologies during the AM-platform meetings and the
SASAM project.
57
Product engineering, Machine design and Automation (PMA)
Task
Department of Mechanical Engineering,
Force/Department/Chair
Catholic University of Leuven
Prof. Dr. ir. Jean-Pierre Kruth
Person Responsible
The PMA has more than 20 years of experience in Additive Manufacturing. The
Short Description
range of its research activities is widespread. In the past they focused on SLA,
at the moment their main research fields are in SLS/SLM. It has been involved
in R&D activities that led to several major technological developments, patents
and to the success of companies active in AM. The institute has patented a SLA
liquid curtain recoating system.
Powder bed fusion; laser re-melting; build-up rates; material properties; process
Focal Point of Research
and part tolerance; product optimization; software tools
Finland
Aalto University – Department of Engineering Design and Production
Aalto University, School of Engineering, Department of Engineering Design
Task
and Production
Force/Department/Chair
Professor Petri Kuosmanen
Person Responsible
The Department of Engineering Design and Production closely cooperates with
Short Description
industry. Long-term scientific research culture with solid know-how of
mechanical engineering forms the basics for research and teaching. The
Additive Manufacturing Technology group develops new AM applications for
industry and for medical use. Medical applications cover a wide range of
subjects, from pre-surgical planning models to special and patient-specific tools
and surgical implants, and even to tissue engineering and 3D-printing of living
cells.
Switzerland
Institute for Rapid Product Development (irpd)
ETH Zurich
Task
Force/Department/Chair
Prof. Dr. Konrad Wegener
Person Responsible
Dr. Dieter Woschitz
The institute for rapid product development (irpd) deals with methods and
Short Description
technologies that shorten the time-to-market intervals of products. The main
focus is the further development of LS- and SLM-processes and machines
including corresponding materials and the transfer of the possibilities into
applications. The institute offers also reverse engineering, consulting and
services across all industries, such as in the device, machine, tool and die
making, medicine, architecture, automotive industry.
Powder Bed Fusion, Polymer Vat, Build-up rates, Manufacturing Costs,
Focal Point of Research
Material Properties, Process Tolerances, Part Tolerances, Design Rules,
Combining Processes, Product Optimization
The Netherlands
TNO (Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research)
/
Task
Force/Department/Chair
Dr. E.R. Meinders
Person Responsible
TNO is an independent research organization whose expertise and research
Short Description
make an important contribution to the competitiveness of companies and
organizations, to the economy and to the quality of society as a whole. TNO has
set the goal, in collaboration with partners, of developing AM technique further
into a fully-fledged production technique for high tech, high precision and high
complexity applications.
Micro stereolithography with highly filled materials; multi-material printing
Focal Point of Research
using ink jet technology; metal connections; 3D food printing
4.1.2 The United States of America
In the USA, additive manufacturing receives significant attention from policy and companies.
For instance, President Barack Obama emphasized in his 2013 State of the Union address the
58
huge, revolutionary potential he sees in AM technology by changing the way we make almost
everything. The White House supports the maker movement and the development of the 3D
printing technology not only by providing public attention and financial support, but also by
organizing maker fairs on its own. The politics in the US aim to create an environment of
tinkerers and makers, which drives this emerging movement in order to create new jobs. In this
context, the government supports startups with the program for advanced manufacturing
providing entrepreneurs access to more than $5 billion (Shear, 2014).
One of the nation’s first publicly funded National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute
called “America Makes” is located in Youngstown, Ohio (Molitch-Hou, 2014e). It was
established in 2012 and is led by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining
(NCDMM) (The White House, 2012). The Institute includes 50 firms, 28 university and
research labs, as well as 16 other organizations. The government supports the institute with US$ 50 million with the aim to increase national manufacturing competiveness and to enhance the
adoption of 3D printing technologies and additive manufacturing in the U.S. manufacturing
sector (Advanced Manufacturing Portal, 2014). The institute offers multiple events like an
International Forum, Technology Shows or 3D Printing Summits (America Makes, 2014).
Another 3D Printing Institute is the Digital Lab in Chicago, Illionois (Molitch-Hou, 2014e).
The hub is part of the Manufacturing Technology Program and receives $70 million from the
United States Department of Defense (Digitallab 2014).
Firms as well as institutions conduct multiple conferences covering topics around 3D Printing
(Stratasys, 2014b; 3D Printing Live, 2014). Furthermore, more than 150 colleges and
universities support students in creating things by offering access to 3D printers (The White
House, 2014).
Research institutions in the United States
The following list provides an exemplary overview of relevant research institutions in the area
of additive manufacturing in the United States. The list is based on Gausemeier et al. (2013)
and does not claim to be complete.
Advanced Manufacturing Center (AMC) – Laboratory for Freeform Fabrication (LFF)
The University of Texas (Austin), Department of Mechanical Engineering
Task Force/ Department /
Chair
Prof. David L. Bourell
Person Responsible
Dr. Steven P. Nichols, Center Director
The Laboratory for Freeform Fabrication (LFF) was already founded in 1988.
Short Description
The build on Carl Deckard’s invention of Selective Laser Sintering (SLS),
which is one of the first freeform fabrication processes. The LFF is part of the
Advanced Manufacturing Center which was established in 2004 to support
research in advanced manufacturing and materials processing.
Powder bed fusion (plastic-based, metal-based)
Focal Point of Research
59
W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation
W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation
Task Force/ Department /
University of Texas at El Paso
Chair
Prof. Ryan Wicker
Person Responsible
Francisco Medina
The W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation is based in the University of Texas
Short Description
at El Paso. With more than $5 million in research funding it is capable of
creating three-dim. models in the field of bio-medical, materials and
manufacturing research.
Powder Bed Fusion (plastic-based, metal-based); Polymer Vat, Material
Focal Point of Research
Extrusion, and Binder Jetting.
4.1.3 The People’s Republic of China
China is currently exploring how 3D printing can be integrated into its manufacturing-driven
economy. The Beijing-based Asian Manufacturing Association (AMA) is one of the main
drivers behind this exploration. Members of the AMA include representatives of China’s
manufacturing industry, researchers and professors of technological universities, economists
and party officials.
In May 2013, the AMA announced plans to found ten 3D printing innovation institutes in China
with an initial investment of $ 3.3 million each (Mu 2013).
Also in May 2013, the AMA organized the World 3D Printing Technology Industry
Conference, which was attended by 500 representatives of the international 3D printing industry
(Ye, 2013). In the course of this conference and in cooperation with international industry and
research representatives, Luo Jun, the CEO of the AMA, initiated the foundation of the World
3D Printing Industry Association. Vice Chairmen of this Association include the CEO of
German system provider EOS GmbH and Prof. Ian Gibson, author of the book “Additive
Manufacturing Technologies”. In November 2013, the Belgian system provider Materialise
joined the alliance, too (Materialise NV, 2013). Materialise is also the parent company of
i.materialise, a 3D printing service provider.
In 2014, the World 3D Printing Industry Alliance hosted the second World 3D Printing
Technology Industry Conference in Qingdao, a city in the northern Shangdong province. More
than 110 3D printing company representatives attended the event, including companies such as
3D Systems, EOS and Voxeljet (The World 3D Printing Industry Association, 2014). In the
course of the conference, the World 3D Printing Industry Alliance together with AMA
announced to invest US-$ 6.42 million into a central China 3D Printing Innovation Center and
Business Park, which will be stationed in Qingdao. This center is intended as the central
platform for coordinating national research on 3D printing as well as its industrial exploitation
(China Daily 2014).
Besides industrial additive manufacturing, also the maker movement has arrived in China. As
an example, the city of Shanghai is backing 100 so-called maker spaces with up to US-$ 80.000
each. These maker spaces are intended as local platforms of innovation and maker workshops
– all of them will feature a 3D printer (The Economist 2013). In Beijing, Shanghai and
Shenzhen, there have been first maker fairs. All in all, however, the maker movement in China
is still in its beginnings.
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Research institutions in the People’s Republic of China
The following tables 11 and 12 provide an overview of relevant research institutions in the area
of additive manufacturing in the People’s Republic of China. The does not claim to be complete.
Table 11: Key Players China - Industry. Source: Wohlers Associates, 2014
Organization
Shaanxi Hengtong Intelligent Machine Co., Ltd.
Shanghai Union Technology
Trumpsystem Precision Machinery (TPM)
Delta Micro Factory Corp.
Farsoon Hi-Tech Company
Beijing Long Yuan–Automated Fabrication
System (AFS)
Wuhan Binhu Mechanical & Electrical Co., Ltd.
R&D Focus
Stereolithography systems
Stereolithography systems
Laser sintering and laser welding equipment
UP! personal 3D printer
Laser sintering systems
/
Machines based on sheet lamination, vat
photopolymerization, and powder bed fusion
Table 12: Key Players China - Universities. Source: Anderson, 2013
Organization
Tsinghua University
Research Focus
Bioprinting
Key Researcher
San Yongnian
Zhang Renji
Lu Bingheng
Huang Weidong
Xi’an Jiaotong University, HUST
Northwestern Polytechnical University (State
Key Laboratory on Solidification Processing)
Bioprinting
Laser additive manufacturing
(LAM)
Beijing University of Aeronautics and
Astronautics Beijing
Huazhong University of Science and
Technology (Fast Manufacturing Center),
LAM
Wang Huaming
drip irrigation parts, bioprinting
Selective laser melting
Yu Shengshi
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4.2 Economic implications
The global manufacturing industry is under pressure – both to grow and to transform: Firstly,
with more and more people entering the global consuming class, experts assume that worldwide
consumption will double up to US-$ 64 trillion over the next two decades (McKinsey, 2012).
Against this background, forecasts by McKinsey (2012) predict that manufacturing output will
continue to grow by about 2.7% annually in advanced economies and 7.4% per year in large
developing economies in the same time span. Already today, China is neck-and-neck with
America as the world’s biggest manufacturer (Markillie, 2012). Additionally, other forces, such
as a proliferation of products to meet fragmenting consumer demand and a growing importance
of value-added services, urge the manufacturing sector to go through a profound change.
To secure their market power and to match both the increasing and changing demand for
consumption goods, global manufacturing companies need to reinvent themselves:
The new era of manufacturing will be marked by highly agile, networked enterprises that use
information and analytics as skillfully as they employ talent and machinery to deliver products
and services to diverse global markets. (McKinsey, 2012, p. 1)
This means that manufacturers will no longer succeed by copying and pasting old strategies
into new situations, but they must build new capabilities to react to rapidly changing
circumstances. In the 21st century, manufacturing companies will establish structures of CyberPhysical-Systems (CPS) that follow principles of horizontal3 and vertical4 integration. They
will become increasingly high-tech, from the assembly line to the back office to become more
efficient, agile and effective in their procedures. Building up on this hypothesis, the following
paragraphs examine the potential role of 3D printing in 21st century manufacturing and related
market expectations.
4.2.1 Thoughts on AM microeconomics: The decreasing importance of mass
production and complexity
When using conventional manufacturing methods two things are strongly affecting the costs of
a produced part: the number of copies of the same part and the complexity of the part’s
geometry.
The increasingly and massively applied mass production within the last century led to an
unprecedented growth in welfare. Through the making of thousands and millions of copies of
the exact same products, costs could be decreased tremendously, perfectly harnessing
economies of scale. ‘Economies of scale’ is one of the fundamental principles of modern
microeconomics, taught to every economics and business student: the cost per unit decrease
with the number of the same units produced. Figure 8 illustrates this relationship schematically
using curve 1 for conventional manufacturing methods in a graph with cost per piece on the
vertical and the production batch size on the horizontal axis. By building whole machines and
The “horizontal integration of various IT systems used in different stages of the manufacturing and business
planning processes that involve an exchange of materials, energy and information both within a company ( e.g.
inbound logistics, production, outbound logistics, marketing) and between several different companies (value
networks).” (Kagermann et al., 2013, p. 20)
3
The „vertical integration refers to the integration of the various IT systems at the different hierarchical levels (e.g.
the actuator and sensor, control, production management, manufacturing and execution and corporate planning
levels) in order to deliver an end-to-end solution.” (Kagermann et al., 2013, p. 20)
4
62
production lines tailored to manufacture exactly one specific part, the process can be optimized
to bring down variable costs to a minimum. The high fix costs diminish per part, if production
size is large enough. Even though the principle to distribute the fix costs of expensive machines
over a large amount of produced parts is also true for additive manufacturing machines, the
important difference is that it is not important to produce only exactly the same parts. The costs
stay the same, if you produce many different pieces. Thus, assuming that the machine is used
under a high degree of utilization, the cost per piece (more exactly per used material) stay the
same, no matter how many of a specific part you produce (displayed as curve 3 in fig. 8) – even
if it is only one unique part. This is true only for the manufacturing step – not for the design
step.
The second important aspect in conventional manufacturing is the complexity of the produced
part’s geometry. The more complex a part is, the higher the fixed costs of the designed
manufacturing process (see chapter 3.1 for a detailed explanation). Increasing complexity
moves curve 1 to curve 2 in figure 8, while with additive manufacturing is independent of the
parts’ complexities (curve 3).
Cost
per
piece
a
3
b
2
Increasing complexity
1
Prototypes/
single-item
production
Small batch
production
Series
production
Additive manufacturing
(any complexity)
Conventional manufacturing
(complex part/element)
Conventional manufacturing
(simple part/element)
Batch size/
Lot size
Figure 8: How complexity favors advanced manufacturing over conventional manufacturing methods. Source: Own illustration.
Conventional manufacturing methods will stay the methods of choice for many produced parts
in the future. However, advanced manufacturing will develop into an important complementary
manufacturing method especially for prototypes and small batch production as well as for
complex geometries.
63
4.2.2 The global 3D printing market and industry growth
Whereas the technology of 3D printing is already about 30 years old, recent developments and
innovations have led to a highly dynamic market for 3D printers, related products and services
(Raby, 2012; Deagon, 2013).
The annual report published by Wohlers Associates Inc., a Colorado-based consulting firm that
focusses on trends in the 3D printing industry, is probably the most quoted publication in that
area. According to the 2014 Wohlers Report, the global market for 3D printing (including
products and services) grew to US-$ 3.07 billion (€ 2.2 billion) in 2013. Looking at the past 17
years, this represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34.9 %. In 2012, the global
market for 3D printing products and related services grew by 28.6% to US-$ 2.205 billion
compared to US-$ 1.714 billion in 2011 (Wohlers Associates, 2013). Over the past 26 years,
the average growth rate of global revenues was 27% (Wohlers Associates, 2014).
During the past years, especially the low-cost (< $5000) desktop 3D printer market experienced
a tremendous growth with an average of 346% each year from 2008 to 2011. This increase,
however, declined significantly in 2012 to about 46.3% (Wohlers Associates, 2013).
Also the metal additive manufacturing market grew by nearly 75.8% in the last 14 years
(Wohlers Associates, 2014). This number is based on sales of metal-based AM machines units.
348 of these machines were sold in 2013, compared to 198 in 2012.
It becomes evident that the global 3D printing market is still far from saturated. When looking
at specific industry numbers, however, it becomes evident that US firms are still the dominating
players. Figure 9 shows a comparison of eight 3D printing companies in terms of revenue
growth including three US and three German market leaders.
Despite the impressive growth data during the past decade, the future market potential of 3D
printing is a highly discussed topic. Thus, various market research institutions have estimated
the size and growth of 3D printing industry in the upcoming years with versatile results.
Estimations thereby either tackle the entire global market or focus on specific segments. Table
13 provides some examples of recently published numbers. Even though numbers largely differ,
all research institutions agree that the 3D printing industry will continue to grow over the next
years due to increasing demand both for industrial applications and in the consumer market
64
Figure 9: Revenues of eight 3D printing companies over the past 5 years. Source: Own illustration.
As regards the German market, Astor et al. (2014) estimate its market share for 3D printing
systems, materials and services to be at least 15-20% of the global market. However, to date
there are no sound and more differentiated estimations of the German 3D printing market (Astor
et al, 2014). Currently, many German companies are in the process of investigating the potential
of 3D printing technology for their particular fields of operations. To facilitate knowledge
exchange and joined action related to industrial 3D printing, the German engineering
association VDMA (Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau e.V.) initiated a crossindustry platform called the Additive Manufacturing Association in May 2014. Of the 55
members in October 2014 (VDMA, 2014), only 5 companies are primary AM market operators5
or research institutes (9 members), whereas the largest group (41 members) comprises mainly
German medium-sized enterprises in the field of machine and tool manufacturing, robotics or
other areas of industrial production.
5
The primary AM market consists of all products and services directly associated with AM processes worldwide.
Products include AM systems, system upgrades, materials, and aftermarket products. Services include revenues
generated from parts produced
65
Table 13: 3D printing market estimations. Source: Own research.
3D Printing Market Estimations
Area
Estimated growth rate / value
Source
Global 3D printing industry (associated technologies, products and
services)
Global 3D printing industry (associated technologies, products and
services)
3D printing materials market (including plastics, metals, ceramics,
others)
$10.8 billion / €8.4 billion by 2021
Wohlers Associates, 2013
$4.0 biliion / € 3.0 billion by 2025
Research and Markets, 2013
CARG 19.9% until 2018
RnR Market Research, 2014
$965.5 million by 2019 / € 746,8
million
CARG of 15.4%
Transparency Market Research, 2013
3D printing for medical applications
4.2.3 The role of 3D printing in 21st century manufacturing
As this report shows, 3D printing will have a wide range of possible application areas in the
future, reaching from industrial manufacturing, bioprinting to consumer applications and
beyond. The high-tech industry association Bitkom even recognizes that expectations regarding
3D printing technologies have increased in the last year (Bitkom, 2014a). According to a survey
among 320 ICT companies in 2014, 76% of the respondents agreed that 3D printing technology
is going to cause a significant transformation of certain business areas. Several interview
partners (see chapter 5.1.2) also supported this notion. Additionally, 13% of the respondents
believe that 3D printing will even have a significant large impact on the economy as a whole.
Another study of Bitkom (2014a) states that by today, one-fifth of German citizens (and even
every fourth person in the group of 14- to 49-year old people) are interested in using 3D printers
to produce products for personal use.
Figure 10: 3D printing expectations. Survey results of Bitkom (2014). Source: Bitkom, 2014b.
66
To date, the biggest advantage of 3D printing is that a low number of goods can be produced at
inexpensive costs compared to traditional manufacturing. This is why the aviation and
aerospace industry with relatively small series production is currently the most attractive sector
for 3D printing and additive manufacturing procedures (Silva & Rezende, 2013). The fact that
a low number of parts can be produced at relatively low prices makes 3D printing also an
important technology for prototyping and thus lowers entry barriers for young enterprises. For
example, the startup Helico Aerospace Industries used 3D printing in their developing process
of an autonomous quadrocopter for filming extreme sports and outdoor activities. According to
their founder and CEO Edgar Rozentals, 3D printing accelerated their developing process and
saved costs at the same time as it was not necessary to create casting moulds first. He says that
AM does not only change the rules for startups, it rather is the entrance card to participate in
the game (Kunze, 2014). 3D printing may lead to a new blossoming of the now hardware-based
startup scene. For young companies that plan to offer tangible products rather than software
only, the new manufacturing technology can be an important enabler.
3D printing in the context of Industry 4.0
Industry 4.0 is a project in the high-tech strategy of the German government that promotes the computerization of German
industries on the basis of CPS and the Internet of Things to secure their position as global leaders in the manufacturing
equipment sector. In April 2013, the Working Group Industry 4.0 chaired by Dr. Siegfried Dais (Robert Bosch GmbH) and
Prof. Dr. Henning Kagermann (acatech) presented their final report at the Hannover Fair. The report entails implementation
recommendations to the German federal government.
The Working Group identified eight key areas that need to be tackled for a successful implementation of the Industry 4.0
concept: (1) Standardization and a reference architecture for CPS; (2) new tools for managing complex systems; (3) a
comprehensive, reliable and broadband communication infrastructure for industry; (4) deployment of integrated safety and
security architectures; (5) deployment of participative work design and lifelong learning measures; (6) training and
continuing professional development for employees; (7) adaptation of the regulatory framework in place to adapt to new
innovations; and (8) gains in resource productivity and efficiency.
At the same time, experts see a lot of potential in Industry 4.0. If implemented successfully, Industry 4.0 may enable a
dynamic configuration of different aspects of business processes, such as quality, time, risk, robustness, price and ecofriendliness. In this way, it can foster optimized decision-making as well as increase resource productivity and efficiency.
Industry 4.0 might also create value opportunities through new services, for instance by allowing economically feasible
mass customization of products. Finally, Industry 4.0 is seen as a possibility to respond to demographic changes in the
workplace by allowing more flexible work organization models of companies, and thus, lead to a high-wage economy that
is still competitive.
Reading this list of potential benefits of Industry 4.0, the similarities with 3D printing technology itself become striking. 3D
printing is not only tailored to mass customization purposes, but also may significantly contribute to an increase of flexibility,
decentralization and resource efficiency in global manufacturing. Thus, 3D printing may become an important enabling
technology on Germany’s way towards Industry 4.0. Therefore, notwithstanding the reluctance of certain industry players
to adopt 3D printing technologies, a recommendation for further research and development activities in the area seems
appropriate.
Exhibit 3: Industry 4.0 and 3D printing. Source: Own research.
67
Given the transformation of traditional factories towards CPS, industry commentators agree
that – to secure their competitive advantage – manufacturers and companies across industries
should develop 3D printing capabilities for several reasons: First, 3D printing technology is
based on the idea of digitalization of manufacturing and thus seems to fit perfectly in the
CPS/Internet of Things area. Second, in times of fast technological progress, 3D printing will
help companies to innovate rapidly and continuously, which is an integral ability for economic
growth (Deloitte, 2013). Third, with one machine being able to create the entire product, 3D
printing can significantly enhance manufacturing efficiency (Hornick & Roland, 2013). There
is no need for retooling or assembly and thus, production can be finished in fewer steps. Fourth,
if universally applied, 3D printing might also have a significant impact on logistics as consumer
products can be locally produced and thus a reduction of transportation activities might become
possible (Silva & Rezende, 2013).
Nevertheless, there are also sceptic voices with regard to the potential of 3D printing for
industrial purposes in general and large-scale manufacturing in particular. Critics argue that it
is highly unlikely that 3D printing can replace the mass production of parts or components in a
short to medium time span (Silva & Rezende, 2013). To date, 3D printing is still limited in
matching the economies of scale since it simply takes too long to print individual objects to
make it cost effective on a sufficiently large scale (Deloitte, 2013; Campbell, Bourell & Gibson,
2012; Susson, 2013). Another crucial issue is the still limited choice of possible feedstock
material (Silva & Rezende, 2013).
In sum, the disruptive potential of 3D printing technology should not be underestimated. This
notion even becomes stronger when comparing the potential benefits of 3D printing technology
with the long-term high-tech strategy of Germany as a global leader in state-of-the-art
manufacturing. As exhibit 3 shows, 3D printing can serve as an enabling technology for
achieving Germany’s Industry 4.0 vision. Nevertheless, 3D printing is still a technology at the
very beginning as regards large-scale and cost-effective manufacturing. A lot of development
and research has yet to be done until the technology can compete with traditional manufacturing
procedures.
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4.3 Societal implications
4.3.1 Mass customization and the development from consumers to
prosumers
The possible effects of personal AM technology on company-consumer interactions are
manifold. The ability to convert the initial designs of entrepreneurs into feasible products and
to give consumers the ability to generate designs according to their own imagination raises
customer interaction to a new level (Campbell et al., 2012). That is, desktop 3D printers open
up various opportunities for consumer empowerment and ultimately lead to new forms of
production and collaboration. Current uses of 3D printing seem to empower consumers in
several distinct ways, including: fashioning custom tools to accomplish specific tasks; systems
or structures; visualizing problems that are difficult to picture virtually, expressing aesthetic
taste, individualism, and, of course, having fun by making personalized toys (Ratto & Lee,
2012).
Alongside this empowerment, considerable shifts in consumer behavior can be observed.
Today, consumers increasingly wish for individualized experiences and expect that products to
be tailored to their specific needs (Ratto & Lee, 2012). The newly emerging modes of
customization are mainly consumer-driven. The prosumer (Ritzer & Jurgenson, 2010) is a
model that puts the consumer at the heart of product innovation. Now, facilitated by digital
desktop fabrication, prosumer modes of production are “traversing from the digital to the
material” (Ratto & Lee, 2012). One of the described production modes constitutes mass
customization. Mass customization describes the approach of using industrial rapid prototyping
technologies, not just for a small batch of test pieces, but to manufacture end-products with
customer-specified features (Ratto & Lee, 2012). With desktop 3D printers, consumers can
design and produce new products easily themselves – tailored exactly to meet their particular
needs.
A popular example is the NIKEiD. Nike’s Web site allows users to design customized shoes
with individualized color combinations and personal text insignia (Nike, 2014). This form of
manufacturing is thus able to introduce elements of individual tailoring to products normally
associated with mass production, but at mitigated price points due to economies of scale.
Also, so-called co-creation platforms are distinct types of mass customization that provide
prosumers with the opportunity to interactively personalize products. End users can download
a certain basic design file from an online database, the specifications of which they then alter
to their distinct wills. Hence, the role of the customer has been elevated from a passive recipient
of “expert” designs to the active originator of design innovation (Campbell et al., 2012).
As the boundaries between digital and physical production become increasingly blurry, so too
do traditional conceptions of labor (Ratto & Lee, 2012). “Commons-based peer production”
(Benkler, 2006), which is enabled by digital networks, has proven transformative in the digital
world by introducing modes of production of large projects (Linux, Wikipedia, etc.) based on
69
collaboration and the widely distributed contributions by many, as opposed to mass production
from a centralized source. Hence, 3D printing may act as a catalyst for cloud manufacturing in
networks of decentralized manufacturing firms (Lipson & Kurman, 2013).
Not only does 3D printing allow for decentralized production, but it also promotes the division
and distribution of labor. While traditionally the processes of product idea, design and
manufacturing were done by the same entity, 3D printing allows and even encourages splitting
the work. Designers and manufacturers do not necessarily have to be part of the same entity
anymore, nor do they have to know each other personally. This way of working opens up new
opportunities spurring product innovation.
4.3.2 Maker movement
While additive manufacturing technologies have already gained a strong position in the
industrial sector, the development in the consumer market is still at an early stage. So far, the
technology lacks an application that makes owning a 3D printer indispensible to private
persons. Lipson & Kurman (2013) compare the current consumer-level 3D printing
technologies to the “Altair phase”, meaning the personal computer in the 1970s. Back then, the
first personal computers were clumsy do-it-yourself kits that were targeted at technically skilled
users. The mainstream adoption of personal computers was only triggered by applications like
email, search engines and instant messaging services that quickly emerged around the rise of
the Internet. These applications created new markets, new business models and attracted
millions of new users to the personal computer. The absence of that particular application for
3D printers, a so-called “killer app” (Lipson & Kurman, 2013, p.39), is the reason why the
average consumer and small business has not yet felt the need to purchase a 3D printer for home
or office use. It is yet unclear if there will be such an application for consumer 3D printers in
the future and what it will be. 3D printing is not yet a household technology, but it is taking its
first steps into mainstream as a growing number of early adopters familiarizes with the
technology and owns a 3D printer in their homes. Most of these early adopters are so-called
makers. Makers can be compared to power users for software companies. Similar to hackers
who like to alter software to their will, Makers bend technology to their will (Lipson & Kurman,
2013, p. 48). Although nobody really knows where the term makers came from, it is widely
used and even named a whole movement – the maker movement. According to interviewee 13,
three key drivers have fueled the maker movement and led to the status quo. These include the
access to digital production capacities, the availability of affordable, easy to operate 3D design
software, and the broad establishment of maker-to-consumer platforms. The maker movement
is a celebration of the increasingly popular do-it-yourself innovation and spans all kinds of
different technologies, not just 3D printing (Lipson & Kurman, 2013).
4.3.3 3D printing for sustainable development in developing countries
4.3.3.1 Promoting self-directed sustainable development
Applying 3D printing technology in developing countries could have a significant social
impact, as it shows potential to promote economic self-sufficiency and to provide a better
70
quality of life and education. Inequality in human development is a major global issue. The
Human Development Index (HDI) is a measure along three dimensions: “life expectancy,
educational attainment and command over the resources needed for a decent living” (United
Nations Development Programme, 2013, p. 1). It indicates that 46 out of 186 rated countries
are ranked as “Low Human Development” countries, showing the inequality in development
and quality of life.
Pearce et al. (2010) state that “of the methods of sustainable development that have been most
successful at enabling the impoverished to pull themselves out of poverty are those that favor
egalitarian, local, small scale, people centered, bottom-up, peer-to-peer methodologies, which
directly support AT [appropriate technology] paradigms” (p. 18). AT is a term for those
technologies that can be used easily and economically from readily available resources by local
communities to meet their needs by simultaneously complying with environmental, cultural,
economic, and educational resource constraints of the local community. This idea represents
the logic of self-directed sustainable development meaning that habitants of developing
countries can take the initiative to produce goods from first necessity and to act proactively
towards their goals, instead of depending on the help from other countries and institutions.
The potential of 3D printing technology for fostering self-directed sustainable development is
mostly dependent on three factors: First, the broad availability and application of such opensource appropriate technology (OSAT) (Garrett, 2014). Second, the increasing number of free
CAD models for various objects, especially for households (Pearce et al., 2010), and their
availability on the internet. And third, the introduction of self-replicating 3D printers like
RepRap and [email protected], which can also replicate expensive equipment at much less cost.
If these criteria are met, several scientists share the opinion that 3D printing technology has the
potential to change business models, shift production locations and shorten supply chains
(Garrett, 2014). According to Garrett (2014), these changes are especially relevant for
developing countries. 3D printing as OSAT can minimize the fixed costs and volume necessities
associated with low cost manufacturing. This will result in lower entry barriers for the
manufacturing of many goods (Kohn, 2014), resulting in less dependency on other more costcompetitive countries. Moreover, it can open doors for local startups, since volume is not any
longer the main driver to reach low production costs. By providing the chance to implement
fast new ideas and products using mainly e-waste and recycled material, 3D printing offers
entrepreneurially thinking people in developing countries the means to develop and materialize
their ideas. This entrepreneurial spirit has also evolved with the help of organizations like
FabLab, which aim to encourage young people and teach them how to use this technology
(FutureMag, 2014).
The main potential for this low-cost customized production can be found in rural communities,
which are partially isolated from the rest of the country due to underdeveloped infrastructure
(3Ders.org, 2013d). By providing each of these communities with a 3D printer and the
knowledge how to use it, they are given the chance to be independent and to cover their basic
needs, e.g. by printing their own clothes (Turk, 2014), kitchenware or toilets (Nichols, 2013).
This might make African countries self-efficient and independent from import and other
countries’ help (Hajustin.com, 2013).
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4.3.3.2 Access to education and healthcare supplies
As regards education, computers in developing countries’ schools are often still a rarity (Merlin,
2014). To ensure high-skilled education and increase employment opportunities, it is thus
important that pupils can be equipped with cheap tools. Due to 3D printers, experimentation
with parts that are usually too fragile or expensive for experimentation might become possible.
For example, files of fossils can already be downloaded and printed for free for experimentation
in schools. The financial burden for schools in developing countries can further be reduced by
providing cheap 3D printers like the W.AFATET, a model that was entirely created from
recycled e-waste material, while the electronics and the motor only cost $100 (Naramore, 2014).
Furthermore, with 3D printing it can become possible to produce objects for people who lack
basic amenities (such as toiletries or rain buckets) or who are in need for cheap healthcare
supplies. This can for instance be of significant benefit for people in countries of war, who have
been seriously injured and who are limited in their everyday life. An exemplary project that
addresses this issue via the use of 3D printing is Project Daniel which promotes the use of 3D
printers to make prosthetic arms for children of war in South Sudan (3ders.org, 2014a). 3D
printing allows printing prostheses for only US-$ 100 and within six hours. Even though the
functionality of printed prostheses is still limited compared to high-cost prostheses, the
technology allows children of war to do basic things like feeding themselves or using a
computer again (Bort, 2014).
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4.4 Legal framework conditions and regulatory challenges
The emergence of 3D printing technology and its broad dissemination due to falling costs of
machines and materials (both in the industrial and private area) might create a range of new
issues in the legal landscape. Osborn (2013) states that “some of [these issues] are
straightforward applications of existing law, whereas others require careful thought to balance
competing policies and develop legal mechanisms” (p. 7). Relevant literature indicates that
there are two key developments brought about by 3D printing that could have a significant
influence on law in general and intellectual property law in particular: First, 3D printing enables
an easy and cheap way of reproducing physical objects by printing them from computer files
(Sissons & Thompson, 2012). Thus, commercial trading and sales could switch from certain
objects to the underlying design files (Hornick & Roland, 2013; Osborn, 2013). Secondly, the
3D printing movement is based on an open-source ethos with a large amount of lay people
collaboratively participating in the development and exchange of product files (Sissons &
Thompson, 2012). Both developments raise important questions regarding the legal status of
3D printed objects and ask for new regulation modes of 3D printing activities. The following
sections outline different legal and regulatory areas that could be affected by 3D printing.
4.4.1 Aspects of intellectual property and patent law
Many possible decisions of intellectual property (IP) law in 3D printing are yet to be explored
and decided, which implies that the laws’ content and interpretation are highly dynamical.
Therefore, also the range of plausible scenarios is extensive. On the one side, von Hippel (2005)
claims that legislation and regulations that is specifically tailored to support user innovation
will lead to a relatively higher social welfare. On the other side, the business research firm
Gartner (2013b) estimates that by 2018 intellectual property theft caused by 3D printing might
lead to a loss of $ 100 billion worldwide.
In this section, the focus stays on copyright, utility patents, design rights and trademarks as the
most important IP concepts with regard to 3D printing. Moreover, state-of-the-art licensing
models and approaches for enforcing IP are presented. We deliberately exclude the discussion
on the status of 3D files with regard to copyrights and patents. This is currently a very
hypothetical discussion and likely to be solved by case law. The publication by Weinberg
(2013) provides a good introduction to the inherent issues.
4.4.1.1 Copyright in 3D Printing
Copyright is an unregistered right that protects mainly artistic and creative works that are fixed
in a tangible medium without protecting the idea that the work expresses (Weinberg, 2010).
Every work that is created and fulfills the requirements for copyright protection is automatically
protected until 70 years after the author’s death (US & Germany). In contrast to patents,
copyright recognizes independent creation of the same work by two authors given that they did
not copy from each other. Examples in 3D printing that are likely to have copyright are
sculptures, figures or jewelry (Weinberg, 2013).
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With respect to the distribution of media files over the internet, in US copyright law, the socalled fair use doctrine legalizes certain otherwise infringing actions, for instance the use of
protected material for academic purposes, parody or news reporting. However, the exact
boundaries of this exception are hard to foresee and depend on the case.
Another important reform was the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). One aspect of
DCMA allows online-sites with shared content, such as Youtube, Flickr or 3D printing
communities, to be not directly liable for their users’ uploads. Instead, they act as an
intermediary between the copyright holder and the infringing user. Whenever a copyright
infringement is claimed, the original author can request the site to take the material in question
down (the so called DMCA takedown-notice). After the site has done so, it informs the uploader
who has the possibility to challenge this takedown using his legal rights (Häfeli, 2014).
In 2011, the 3D printing community experienced their first DMCA takedown-notice. A
discussion of this incident can be found in “Printing the impossible triangle” by Rideout (2011).
4.4.1.2 Patents in 3D printing
Patents are a protection right for novel, non-obvious inventions. This right must be granted by
the respective patent office after the inventor has applied for it. After examination, a patent is
granted for 20 years and the resulting strength of protection is generally higher than that given
by copyright. Firstly, the right holder receives absolute blocking rights. This means that he can
enforce his rights regardless whether the infringing entity did not know about the patent or
developed the same invention independently (anti-ignorance protection). Secondly, he is not
only protected against direct infringement, but also can enforce his right against contributory
infringement (interview 16, 2014).
Although patents appear to be an interesting way to protect 3D printed inventions by
individuals, this idea involves some challenges in practice. Most importantly, patent law is a
highly complex subject. Determining whether an invention is indeed suitable for being patented
and then filed in the formally correct manner, requires usually an expensive mandate by a patent
attorney. Furthermore, the patent application and the research require a mid-sized upfront
investment.
While being the inventor will only apply to a small group of end-users, most of them will
experience patent law from the perspective of the entity, who produces objects, which are
protected by another entity. With 3D printing the (potential) costs of patent infringement may
decrease significantly since the replication process of objects becomes technologically easier
as well as cheaper (Desai & Magliocca, 2010; Hornick & Roland, 2013). This is especially
important for the US where (in opposite to the EU) the personal use is not excluded from the
patent protection. Due to the aforementioned anti-ignorance protection, the patent rights are
also enforceable if the end user did not know about the patent.
To face the patent challenges brought about by 3D printing, Professor Hod Lipson of Cornell
University has suggested a system of micropatents (Lipson, 2012). Such micro-patents would
provide small businesses and individual inventors with a smaller IP “unit” that is both less
expensive and quicker to produce. Lipson describes such a system as follows:
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An inventor would submit, for a few hundred dollars, a document describing his invention to a
centralized government micro-patent repository. The document would be time-stamped and
then immediately released to the public. Its lifespan would be shorter — perhaps five years
rather than the traditional 20 — and only for demonstrated fields of use. In order to prevent
patent trolling, it would protect only objects being sold commercially. Like a patent, it would
cover a utilitarian application. Like a copyright, it would be easy and straightforward to obtain
and would be tested only upon dispute. By filing a micro-patent document, the inventor would
be granted an immediate, implicit, short-term exclusive right to the disclosed idea, and only in
case of a dispute by two practicing commercial entities would the case be evaluated. (Lipson,
2012)
4.4.1.3 Design protection and trademarks
Besides copyright and patents, design patents (US) or design rights (EU) are another important
part of modern intellectual property rights. They are used to protect the appearance of
handcrafted and industrial products in order to prevent competitors to use the design for their
own products. Similar to patents, design protection requires the subject matter to fulfill certain
requirements with regard to novelty and non-obviousness. Furthermore, registered design
protection provides the holder with absolute blocking rights as well (Häfeli, 2014).
Trademark law aims at protecting customers from confusion about the origin of products. This
protection right requires registration by the owner of the sign (e.g. a brand logo) that is to be
protected and valid as long as the sign is used. The law against unfair competition provides
automatic protection, but is in general more limited (Häfeli, 2014).
3D printing gives individuals the ability to produce a remarkable range of fake-trademarked
goods in privacy. In this way, 3D printing could bring piracy into the home. According to
Osborn (2013), the question hereby is, in how far 3D printing will influence the two distinctive
rationales of trademark law, namely “consumer protection” and “producer incentives”.
Bradshaw et al. (2010) argue that it is not necessarily a trademark infringement, if a specific
item (e.g. the narrow-wasted Coca-Cola bottle) is used for private purposes since the traditional
consumer confusion about the source of the object will not be an issue. This will, however, raise
new and difficult questions about the proper role of regulation for brand names and related
items (Osborn, 2013). Susson (2013) recognizes that duplications of initially trademarketed
objects could easily circumvent trademark protections by simply producing the items without a
logo.
4.4.1.4 Licensing
The holder of an IP protection right is free to license his work to others under custom conditions.
This also includes the choice to not give any modification, distribution or similar rights to
anyone, as it is common with industrial products. However, in the maker movement, authors
usually allow others to creatively work with their creations.
In order to prevent potential users from dealing with complex licenses for every single item and
make licensing things easier for the creator, public copyright licenses have been invented. They
allow users to recognize directly which rights they can practice and save the inventor from
setting up his own legally valid license. The most popular public license for digital works is
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Creative Commons (Creative Commons, 2014), which comes in several variants that give a set
of permissions from the author to the licensees. They all include the right of the licensee to
distribute and display the work. However, the author might choose to require that he is
mentioned in an adequately manner (BY) or that the work may only be used non-commercially
(NC). Furthermore, he can choose that all derivative work is shared under the same license
(share-alike: SA) or deny the licensee to modify the work (non-derivs: ND).
The enforcement of IP rights in practice is challenging as digital files can be reproduced without
loss of quality and, furthermore, the control of the end-users’ devices is limited. Currently, the
main enforcement solutions are (a) to print objects via a trusted service or (b) to directly stream
to the printer. Both approaches limit the user in customizing and improving the original design.
This kind of enforcement of IP rights for digital products is known from the music and film
industry as Digital Right Management (DRM).
One example for the former approach (a) is Shapeways. Shapeways is both shopping platform
for the user and the trusted printing service for the final product. The IP rights of the designers
are enforced by giving the end-customer no access to the design files, but rather directly
shipping only the final product.
The later approach (b) is implemented by solutions of Authenise6, Secure 3D 7and FabSecure8.
An article by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC, 2013) has referred to them as the
“Spotify for 3D printing”. They enforce the designers copyright by directly streaming data to
the printer in a low-level format. For the end-user it is then difficult to reverse-engineer the
original CAD file from the transmitted control commands.
In both cases, the IP infringers might scan and reprint the final object. Nevertheless, this
circumvention will never create design files of the same quality level as the original one,
especially when it comes to fragile structures.
4.4.1.5 Emerging Issues
The interviewed expert (interview 16, 2014) described a possible strong increase on copyrights
as one major challenge:
One idea is that, if the [maker movement] will grow and if more people will be creative, this
will of course lead to many more copyrights being created and thus more unregistered design
rights – not on the files, but on the designs of objects. It is very important to keep these two
things apart. And if these designs of objects come into the scope of copyright, and many people
do that, we will have a large increase – maybe even explosion – of copyright in subject matter.
That whole thing could lead to a market where you don't know anymore what's protected, whom
you have to license with. [The most evident solution is] [...] to make it more difficult to get
rights by, for instance, excluding functional items more thoroughly from copyright protection,
because that's really not where they belong.
6
http://www.authentise.com/
7
http://secured3d.com/
8
http://www.fabsecure.com
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Another approach is to introduce some kind of collective licensing organization. These
collective licensing organizations would save the individual from having to research the right
holder for every single object. However, the interviewee states:
[...] the major problem is to limit this somehow. In case of copyrights, you know quite well who
the authors are and who aren't. Furthermore, most songs are protected by copyright. There, it is
easy to get into copyright, because the uncertainty whether something is protected by copyright
comes into place again. Many people will probably register for your collecting society, but they
may not even have proper copyrights or proper design rights.
As patents are examined more carefully, this would not be a problem. However, petty patents,
as they are less carefully examined, are a problem again.
From a corporate perspective, the lack of clarity with regard to intellectual property and 3D
printing causes concerns regarding an increasing danger of product piracy when using AM
technologies and the associated CAD software. By sending the files from company to customer,
computer to 3D printer and from persons to persons, the probability of data leakage increases.
The fear of losing intellectual property (IP) and thus important competitive advantages to other
players might decrease the overall willingness to adopt the AM technologies in industry. During
expert interviews this concern was evaluated as well. On the other hand, products are already
being copied today without using AM (interview 4, 2014). Therefore, it is questionable if a
large-scale introduction of AM is really likely to change something in this area. Interviewee 17
(2014) supports this opinion, warning not to make irrational decisions. He sees the need for
clearer IP rights by no means connected to the AM development. He agrees that every
information that is highly sensitive to a company and has disastrous potential when it leaks,
needs to be protected. But in his opinion this is neither something new nor restricted to CAD
data. This also accounts for finance data just as much as for CAD data (interview 17, 2014). IP
rights as a whole have to be adapted to the digital age by the government to protect industries,
but also customers.
In conclusion, the major upcoming issues in IP policies with regard to 3D printing for the enduser and the related consequences for industry players are undefined situations in copyright on
files, the hurdle of enforcing licenses in absence of clear IP policies and the possible
“explosion” of IP rights.
4.4.2 Aspects of standardization and consumer protection
4.4.2.1 Environmental law and quality standards
In the area of environmental law, two challenges with regard to 3D printing could be identified:
First, there might be a need for environmental product and quality standards regarding the
environmental impacts of 3D printing, such as norms for printers, legal limits for emissions due
to toxic fumes or feedstock powders and standards for filaments (Osborn, 2013). Second, if 3D
printers will become a mainstream global production methods, new regulatory mechanisms
regarding the holistic environmental impact of 3D printing will be required (Osborn, 2013).
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4.4.2.2 Issues of product liability
As stated above, the 3D printing movement has been built on an open-source ethos with many
DIYers participating in the market (Sissons & Thompson, 2012; Osborn, 2013). This can on
the one hand lead to a vast amount of innovations, but there is also a risk that lay people
unintentionally create shoddy and dangerous products. Consequently, certain questions of
product liability arise.
The first one raises the issue of the legal status of a CAD file. To apply strict products liability
law, CAD files need to be considered as “products” in the legal sense. However, their legal
status has not been clearly defined yet. According to Osborn (2013), the ongoing discussion is
similar to the question whether computer software should count as “products” (and thus fall
under products liability law) or merely as “services” (and thus not) 9. As aforementioned, this
discussion is highly controversial and will most likely be solved by case law.
The second question tackles the issue of liability in case a buyer or consumer is injured by a
product printed from a CAD file. Even if treated as “products”, strict product liability can only
be applied to people “engaged in the business of selling or otherwise distributing products” 10.
In the case of 3D printing, however, it is likely that many people will give away CAD files for
free and therefore cannot be held responsible under strict products liability. In addition, the
boundaries between “professional merchants” and “casual sellers” need to be redefined in the
3D printing scene. Amateur sellers might not be as sophisticated and careful about their design
as professionals. Nevertheless, a one-time, casually uploaded CAD file could go viral and sell
millions of copies (Osborn, 2013). Another related issue concerns the liability of professional
3D printing services. It has to be discussed in how far a 3D printing service can be sued under
strict products liability in case a 3D printed product injures a customer. It is unlikely that a 3D
printing service, which merely prints out CAD files on behalf of customers, knows as much
about the products sold as traditional manufacturers. Osborn (2013) assumes that strict products
liability does not apply in this case since 3D printing services are more akin to service providers
than to manufacturers.
4.4.2.3 Issues of certification and product approval
Another hurdle that is keeping many firms from adopting 3D technologies today are admissions
and lengthy certification procedures for different material and parts that have been produced
and processed by 3D Printing machines, especially in the area of aerospace. Both interviewee
2 and interviewee 12 stressed that right now, entrance barriers for these technologies are so high
that small and medium sized companies can hardly afford them. The admissions are very costly
as there are no standards yet. Thus, the companies have to run numerous tests with different
materials, to find out how the material, e.g. titanium, is reacting with different AM methods and
get them finally admitted, before they can manufacture a single piece for serial production.
These lengthy processes not only hinder innovation among big corporations, most of all they
In the area of products liability and software, many discussion focus on whether the software has a greater service aspect (as in the case
of custommade, customer-specific programs) or product aspect (such as massmarketed software). The same distinction could apply to CAD
files (Osborn, 2013).
9
10
Restatement (third) of torts: Prods. Liab. $1
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prevent adoption and thus competition in the market, which inhibit overall innovation in the
field of 3D technologies (interview 2, 2014). The certification system thus has to prioritize these
technologies higher and shorten the time until materials and production methods get admitted.
The government has to support small and medium sized companies the foster wide spread
adoption of 3D Printing technologies (Gausemeier et al., 2012).
4.5 Environmental assessment of 3D printing
In 2000, Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen coined the term Anthropocene to describe the
emergence of an era in which the influence of human behavior on the Earth’s atmosphere and
ecosystems has become so significant that it constitutes a new geological epoch (Crutzen &
Stoermer, 2000). Already today, “humanity uses the equivalent of 1.5 planets to provide the
resources we use and absorb our waste” (Global Footprint Network, 2013). Until 2050, the
world’s population is expected to increase from 6.9 to more than 9 billion – with the majority
of this growth happening in urban areas of the developing and emerging world (WBCSD, 2010;
PWC, 2012; FAO, 2009) and about 800 million people joining the socio-economic middle-class
(WBCSD, 2010). Furthermore, in 2009, the number of people living in urban areas has
surpassed the number of people living in rural areas for the first time. Thereby, more than one
in every seven human beings lives in an urban slum.
Global developments like world population growth, demographic change and urbanization lead
to a continuously increasing demand for consumer goods in the next decades (PWC, 2012). As
long as business-as-usual methods remain, however, higher rates of production will
automatically come along with a further increase of environmental degradation due to resource
consumption and emissions (FAO; 2009; WBCSD, 2010). Against this background, the
urgency for a fundamental change of material use and production procedures becomes evident.
Both in mass media and scientific literature, it has been argued that additive manufacturing
bears a significant environmental sustainability potential by reducing the material waste and
transportation-induced CO2-emissions related to 3D-printed products (Huang et al., 2013). This
notion is explored in the following section that qualitatively summarizes the environmental
impacts of 3D printing, systemized along the typical product life cycle stages of a cradle-tograve life cycle assessment for evaluation industrial systems (EPA, 2006).
4.5.1 Raw materials acquisition and inbound logistics
Materials used in AM processes influence the demand for specific sets of raw materials.
Thereby, one of the main issues are the costs and availability of filament for thermoplastic
extrusion procedures. For example, industrial plastic polymers (such as ABS) are often made
from non-renewable petrochemicals (Hammond & Jones 2008; American Chemistry Council,
2014). Despite the introduction of new naturally based materials such as PLA, Birtchnell et al.
(2013) raise concerns about the environmental impacts:
About 2 per cent of global oil is used to make a wide variety of manufactured goods in a rainbow
of different polymers and as much as 95 per cent of packaging and bottling worldwide is derived
from oil products. 3D printing in many low-end machines relies on ABS, which is a polymer
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derived from oil, or in some cases corn ethanol derived PLA, which generally requires oil-based
fertilizers anyway. (p. 7)
Nevertheless, 3D printing can reduce the amount of raw materials required in the supply chain.
3D printing manufacturing processes follow an additive production logic and thus only use the
material that the final object requires (Reeves, 2009, p. 5; Wagner, 2010). This effect, however,
is currently moderated by material waste caused further down the product life cycle by the
depreciation of critical material properties (Silva & Rezende 2009, p.2).
Regarding inbound logistics questions, such as the storage, movement, and distribution of raw
material and mid-process parts, there is broad consensus that additive manufacturing
contributes greatly to a lean supply chain11. First, additive manufacturing is often used to
manufacture structurally complex end products in one production step. By rendering
intermediate steps, such as tooling, molding and casting, (partially) obsolete, 3D printing helps
to save not only materials and energy, but also CO2-emissions traditionally generated during
the transportation of the mid-parts (Reeves, 2009, pp. 5-6; Huang et al., 2013, p. 1197; Silva &
Rezende, 2013, p.278). However, this positive impact is limited by the fact that direct (i.e. endproduct) manufacturing applications of 3D printing still make up below one third of all
applications (Wohlers Report, 2013). With 16% of additive manufacturing applications being
in the indirect production domain (i.e. casting, tooling) (Wohlers Report, 2013), the waste
creation by the precision industry leaves much room for improvement (Drizo & Pegna, 2006).
Furthermore, while distributed hyper-local manufacturing at the site of the consumer would
indeed minimize CO2-emissions from end-product distribution, it would require the continuous
distribution of production materials to end-consumers instead. Thus, it might just shift CO2emissions from one transport activity to another (Silva & Rezende, 2013, p. 281).
4.5.2 Manufacturing
Product manufacturing is probably the most often cited environmental advantage of 3D
printing. Some scientists suggest that the technology can significantly reduce material and
possibly energy consumption (Choudhury, 2013; Huang et al., 2013). However, insights on this
topic are still highly dependent on the specific shape of the printed product, the manufacturing
machine type and its utilization (Faludi, 2013).
4.5.2.1 Material Consumption Impact
3D printing techniques enable net shape manufacturing where the initial production of the item
is already very close to its final form, thereby reducing material waste as well as the need for
surface finishing (Jacobs, 1996; Grimm, 2002, Dove, 2003; Drizo & Pegna, 2006; Goodrich,
2013; Kurman & Lipson, 2013). According to some research, it even has the potential to reduce
material costs by 90% (Choudhury, 2013). For example, a life-cycle analysis of selected
additive manufacturing applications in the scale model kit industry conducted by Nopparat et
al. (2012) showed that 3D printing produces 62.4% less material waste than typical injection
molding systems. It has been acknowledged that AM has particularly strong material-efficiency
potential in industries with high material waste, such as aerospace where for each 1 kg of endA paradigm in supply chain management, which encompasses the idea of reducing waste throughout the supply chain (Tuck & Hague,
2006, p. 364; Huang, 2013, pp. 1197 f.; White & Lynskey, 2013, p.2).
11
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product 19 kg are wasted (Reeves, 2009). Furthermore, 3D printing as a design and masscustomization enabling instrument can be used to validate the market acceptance of new
products. It can thereby reduce the waste stream in further product development stages and
eventually waste accumulation from mass-produced unsuccessful product innovations
(Schroeder, 2001; Stier & Brown, 2001; Drizo & Pegna, 2006).
The new forms of material waste inherent to some AM processes moderate this positive effect,
however. First, 3D printing often requires support structures that can be recycled only to a
limited extent (Choudhury, 2013; Silva & Rezende, 2013). Second, heating degradation of
plastic powder materials used in powder bed 3D printing processes can cause substantial
inefficiencies (Wagner, 2010; Kurman & Lipson, 2013; Silva & Rezende, 2013). In a polymer
laser sintering process for instance, at least 30% of the powder-based material can end up being
unusable (Silva & Rezende, 2013). Third, home 3D printers can lead to material waste due to
print failure rates that can reach 20% (Wittbrodt et al., 2013). Thereby, inkjet 3D printers can
deem 40-45% of the plastic ink unrecyclable (Faludi, 2013). Finally yet importantly, additive
manufacturing can cause material waste through a flood of trial productions (Drizo & Pegna,
2006; Kurman & Lipson, 2013). Nevertheless, the overall impact of 3D printing on typical
material consumption in the production process seems to be highly beneficial.
4.5.2.2 Energy Consumption Impact
The energy consumption of 3D printing processes cannot yet be clearly evaluated. On the one
hand, some studies cite significant energy consumption advantages for low volume production
badges when compared to conventional techniques (Goodrich, 2013; Nopparat et al., 2013).
Energy costs could be cut by 50% thanks to AM using energy only to transform materials
enough to be used once. In comparison, traditional processes, such as metal milling, need
energy to transform the raw material first into a block of bulk, then to mill it and eventually to
recycle the big amount of produced chips into a new block (Silva & Rezende, 2013). In line
with these insights, Nopparat et al. (2013) note that most of the energy used in AM is to create
the final product, while injection molding only uses a fraction of the total energy to produce the
final product.
On the other hand, energy-thirsty and badly utilized industrial 3D printing machines are still a
major factor for a high energy-inefficiency of additive manufacturing (Choudhury, 2013;
Huang et al., 2013). Some studies report using heat or a laser to melt plastic consumed an
estimated 50 to 100 times more electrical energy than injection molding to make an object of
the same weight (Kurman & Lipson, 2013). Furthermore, the operating procedure for 3D
printers, i.e. equipment warm-up and cool-down stages, has a critical impact on energy use
(Huang et al., 2013).
Independent of the inconclusive research on energy consumption of additive manufacturing, a
strongly moderating role for its overall environmental impact play the energy sources. Products
made using solar-powered 3D printers, for example, can drive down the environmental impact
even further (Goodrich 2013). In the future, agile 3D printing facilities powered with set
amounts of stored renewable energy could rapidly adjust fabrication rates to the level of
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available renewable power. Thereby they could reduce the negative energy-consumption
impact for 3D printing even for larger production badges (Kurman & Lipson, 2013).
4.5.2.3 Toxicity Impact
Overall, the pollution of terrestrial, aquatic, and atmospheric systems through 3D printing
seems to be lower than through conventional manufacturing processes (Huang et al., 2013). A
main contributing factor for this positive impact is the omitted usage of cutting fluids, which
are typical in other manufacturing methods and the main source of hazard in production waste
streams (Huang et al., 2013).
However, toxicity and environmental impacts of 3D printing materials and chemical solvents
used for their removal is often still not entirely clear. Potential toxicological health and
environmental risks can occur from handling certain materials during product manufacturing
(Drizo & Pegna, 2006). Moreover, the operational processes of home 3D printers have been
shown to produce potentially carcinogenic ultra-fine particles in high quantities. Particularly
harmful are the secondhand printing fumes that contain toxic byproducts given off when plastic
is heated to high temperatures (Stephens et al., 2013).
4.5.3 Outbound logistics
As stated, AM offers possibilities for leaner supply chains with regard to outbound logistics.
The transportation ways are shorter or even nonexistent. As the overriding costs are machines
and raw materials, production can take place at a home 3D printer and thus requires no
packaging and warehousing. (Huang et al., 2013, p. 1196-1197; Kurman & Lipson, 2013; Silva
& Rezende, 2013, p. 6). Also custom parts produced in small batches, such as rarely used spare
parts for cars and aircrafts, can be manufactured close to the point of demand (Loughborough
University, 2009). No transportation means a smaller carbon footprint. Even if transportation
is necessary, additive manufacturing opens new possibilities in terms of design, such as hollow
structures, so the weight of the product and its carbon footprint can be decreased (Kurman &
Lipson, 2013).
Green building already has a significant eco-potential, but it would further benefit from
sustainable outbound logistics with 3D printing. A D-Shape 3D printer is potentially capable of
printing a two-story building on site, and requires only ordinary sand and an inorganic binder.
Earlier tests have shown results that are indistinguishable from marble and its durability is
highly superior to that of masonry and reinforced concrete and uses very low levels of energy
as compared to traditional manufacturing processes (Belezina, 2012; DeFreitas, 2012).
4.5.4 Product use, re-use and maintenance
The usage of a product is an important step in its life cycle as it is a multiplier of the entire
environmental footprint. The longer a product is used the lower is the relative impact of prior
stages of the value chain. For a greener lifecycle, the design of a product should therefore aim
for a customized product that fits its user, with a better operational performance and improve
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product longevity, i.e. extend the useful life of a product and therefore its reduce its impact on
the environment (Diegel, 2010, p. 69).
AM opens new possibilities in product design, so that products can provide better functionality:
CAD designs help improve the form, function, performance and durability (Kurman & Lipson,
2013). The quality of components exposed to high thermal loads can be greatly enhanced by
conformal cooling as temperature spreads more evenly, in contrast to conventional straight
drilled cooling channels that could not follow the cavity contour (Hsu, 2013). Fully optimized
geometries can be made significantly lighter in weight, leading to massive savings during the
use of the product. AM enables the production of components 50 per cent lighter than
conventionally manufactured (Wagner, 2010). Lighter parts result in tremendous savings in
fuel, and thus less CO2 is released into the atmosphere (Loughborough University, 2009). Car
manufacturers like Bentley Motors hope to make their luxury, heavy-weight automobiles lighter
in order to meet strict emissions regulations, but the impact is even greater for aerospace
components. While the impact in the aviation industry is greatest, it is true for many products
that carbon savings during the use of products make up for more than just the energy required
to produce them. (Wagner, 2010).
AM furthermore enables the production of customized products. Diegel (2010) suggests that
products which are so well designed that they become lasting objects of desire, pleasure and
attachment, are less likely to be disposed of – and thus more sustainable. Diegel gives the
example that a sports car like the E-type Jaguar can be more sustainable than a hybrid car
because it is cherished by its owner, well-maintained and performs superbly in the complete
life-cycle, possibly lasting multiple generations (p. 3).
On the other hand, there is a downside to home-printed products. There is close to no quality
control for CAD models and no research on durability of such products, which could possibly
produce more waste and material to recycle. As Diegel (2010) points out, there is even very
little research deals with design quality from the point of view of sustainable design.
4.5.5 Recycling and Waste Manufacturing
There is already a massive waste problem when it comes to plastic, and this problem could
increase with additive manufacturing. First off, distributed manufacturing makes it possible and
convenient to print a plastic item at a low cost, and second off, cheap home 3D printers have a
high failure rate (Lomas, 2001) which results in more waste and more recycling issues.
In order to recycle bad prints and convert waste plastic into filament, there have been several
efforts to create domestic plastic extrusion systems such as the open-source RecycleBot
(Baechler et al., 2013). More typically though, the material properties of a product are corrupted
and cannot be reused. A greener solution is using the corn-based plastic called PLA that is
biodegradable and a better alternative to petroleum-based plastics (Goodrich, 2013; Kurman &
Lipson, 2013). Many producers of materials recommend incineration and landfill as a method
of waste disposal, even though there is no data on the biodegradability and possible leaching
from landfills (Vantico, 2003). Some substances detrimental to environment have been found
among decomposition products (e.g. carbon oxide, carbon dioxide, and oxides of nitrogen,
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among others) (Drizo & Pegna 2006, p. 66). In addition, the potential toxicological health and
environmental risks from handling, using and disposal of additive manufacturing materials are
unknown. Some “older generation” materials containing epoxy resins have proved to cause
severe eye and skin irritation and allergies (Drizo & Pegna, 2006, p. 66). This part of the lifecycle analysis requires further research in order to evaluate the whole environmental impact of
additive manufacturing.
4.5.6 Final evaluation
When speaking about the environmental impact of additive manufacturing, it has often been
pointed out that it bears a significant potential for reducing negative impacts. As the literature
review shows, the actual influence is, however, highly dependent on the specific use case.
In summary, 3D printing bears potential for a strong positive environmental impact throughout
the whole product life cycle. First, allowing for more efficient material use and relying more
heavily on materials from renewable sources, it can reduce harmful mining activities.
Moreover, 3D enables one-step manufacturing and thereby limits the wasteful material and
energy impact of typical pre-production processes and transportation. It can greatly increase
material efficiency during production and facilitate a leaner supply chain for distributed
manufacturing that saves energy for warehousing and reduces CO2-emissions for
transportation. Furthermore, by enabling mass-customization and design superiority, 3D
printing can extend product lifetimes and thereby reduce waste. Lastly, biodegradable materials
can reduce harmful recycling and material mining, while new recycle bots even open the door
to a true cradle-to-cradle product life cycle.
To fully realize these potentials, however, policy makers have to boost research and innovation
on material toxicity topics and ensure proper recycling and disposal methods. Second, the use
and invention of new biodegradable materials as well as the avoidance of rapid garbage
generation through home and industrial printing should be incentivized. Finally yet importantly,
the introduction of energy-efficient printing machines and generation of more renewable energy
is needed to ensure the economic sustainability of 3D printing as well as higher technology
adoption that would allow for more use of the environmental benefits.
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5. Conclusion and Recommendations
5.1 3D Printing – A promising field, but not (yet) a game changer
Some researchers and industry commentators have argued that 3D printing could be the next
emerging general purpose technology with the potential to inflame a new round of creative
destruction in the Schumpeterian sense and to lay the foundation for the next industrial
revolution (e.g. Anderson, 2012; Markillie, 2012; Tien, 2012; Barnatt, 2013; Heathcote &
Roux, 2012). The overarching goal of this study was to examine 3D printing technology in a
holistic way and to critically evaluate its potential and possible impacts on state-of-art practices.
Therefore, a comprehensive, qualitative assessment of the technology was conducted. After an
introduction to additive manufacturing technology as such, the exploration started with a
detailed analysis of different 3D printing applications (chapter 3). Afterwards, the findings of
chapter 3 have been put into broader context. In a macro-environmental assessment, 3D printing
technology was explored from different directions (chapter 4). This part of the study focused
on mutual influences between the technology and areas of societal interest. Finally, the goal of
the following chapter is to summarize findings and to draw a final conclusion on the future
potential of 3D printing technology.
5.1.1 Expanding the toolbox
In the course of this study, various technical opportunities and challenges related to AM
processes were elucidated in each area of investigation. The findings are summarized in table
14. It becomes clear that AM has a range of advantages compared to conventional production
processes. Especially new degrees of freedom in product and process design open up
opportunities for increased part complexity, material savings and weight reduction.
Furthermore, the direct connection between digital part design and manufacturing allows leaner
production chains and enables mass customization at no or little additional costs. At this point
in time, however, these opportunities are still moderated by various technical challenges that
need to be overcome to make AM applicable for mainstream mass production purposes.
Thereby, a major hurdle lies in the availability of appropriate printing materials in both the
industrial and the healthcare sector. The amount to choose from is still limited, and the printed
quality, which typically requires post-processing, is in some cases inferior to conventionally
produced items. Also in the consumer market, a broad dissemination of 3D printers is still
hindered due to technical challenges. Many desktop printers are still slow, require expensive
printing material and deliver insufficient printing quality. However, considering the speed of
development in the desktop 3D printing market, it is likely that the quality of the devices will
keep on increasing in the near future.
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Table 14: Opportunities and challenges of AM technology. Source: Own research.
Area
AM for
industrial
applications
AM in the
healthcare and
well-being
sectort
AM in the
consumer
market
Advantages and Opportunities
 New degrees of freedom and geometries in product and
process design (e.g. bionic designs)
o Components of products can designed differently
(e.g. to decrease the number of single parts)
o Increased part complexity possible without
significant increase in production costs
o Weight reduction due to new design possibilities
 Increase in product development speed
 Material savings due to additive production logic
 Reducing assembly efforts as well as cooling and cycle
times in part production
 Possibilities of (mass) customization at no or only little
additional costs
 Digitalization of manufacturing process allows leaner
production chains
 Cost-efficient development of individualized solutions
(e.g. surgical guides, implants, prostheses)
 Adding a third dimension to so-far two-dimensional
processes of tissue engineering
 Possibility of printing biocompatible materials
 3D food printing to produce artificial food for people
with swallowing problems
 Speed of desktop 3D printers increases with every new
generation
 Falling prices of hardware
 With expiring patents, new desktop printers join the
market and open up the spectrum (FDM, SLS,
stereolithography)
 Constant advancements in software
 Possibility of printing a plethora of different items
(functional items, entertainment items, customized
items, specialized items)
Challenges
 Choice of materials still rather limited
 Little amount of digital materials on the market yet
 Printed parts often require post-processing
procedures
 Depending on AM technology, a lot of printing
material is wasted (e.g. when involving sand)
 Production of extremely large parts (e.g. pipelines)
not yet possible due to limited printer size
 AM cannot reach economies of scale as easily as
manufacturing methods
 Available CAD-software is often not capable of
capturing the full spectrum of AM design
possibilities
 Certification and approval of 3D printed parts and
products still a complicated and cumbersome
process
 Limited choice of materials
 3D printing technology has to be adapted (e.g.
smaller resolutions)
 3D bioprinting still at the stage of fundamental
research
 3D food printing still at the stage of fundamental
research
 Materials widely limited to plastics
 Materials often offered as expensive proprietary
equipment by printer manufacturers
 Printing of larger items is time consuming
 Quality of printed objects often not good enough
for daily use
 No general quality standards
Notwithstanding the technical challenges, if successfully applied, AM technology might have
a direct impact on state-of-the-art practices in both industry and the consumer market. Figure
11 provides a brief summary of direct impacts, AM related trends and the investigated use cases.
In the industrial area, AM is already an established manufacturing method in some sectors and
has been used for over 30 years – so far predominantly for parts production and tooling. Recent
R&D advancements, however, have triggered two major trends: (1) an advancement from rapid
prototyping to rapid manufacturing, and (2) a facilitation of mass customization of endproducts. In this way, AM technology can be used for new purposes and finally enters the stage
of end-product manufacturing. Thus, in the long-term, AM technology may change the
relationship between producers and consumers significantly. From a corporate perspective,
mass customization is about the process of matching customer expectations with the company’s
competences. As Tien (2012) observes, this means that traditional manufacturers will have to
enhance their competencies as service providers: “When mass customization occurs, it is
difficult to say whether a service or good is being delivered; that is, a uniquely fitted shoe can
be considered to be a co-produced service and good – a ‘servgood’ product” (Tien, 2012, p.
290).
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Figure 11: Implications, trends and application areas of AM technology. Source: Own research.
Apart from modes of mass customization, AM – especially when applied as rapid
manufacturing – might also serve as an enabling technology for digital manufacturing. This
becomes particularly interesting when looking at the German vision of an Industry 4.0.
Companies increasingly start to establish structures of Cyber-Physical-Systems and try to
digitalize their processes as far as possible. With its flexibility, AM technology has the potential
to become an essential tool in the CPS arena. Nevertheless, there are also sceptic voices as
regards the potential of 3D printing for industrial purposes in general and large-scale
manufacturing in particular. Critics argue that it is highly unlikely that 3D printing can replace
the mass production of parts or components in a short to medium time span due to remaining
technical challenges.
This study identified cost-efficient and uncomplicated product individualization as one of the
major advantages of AM technology. This aspect becomes particularly striking when looking
at the healthcare sector. There, individualized design, for instance for surgical guides, implants,
prostheses, orthoses or tissues, is probably more needed than in any other application area.
Therefore, the interviewed experts agreed that in the healthcare sector, 3D printing bears
probably the highest potential for a fundamental market disruption. Akin to all other AM areas,
however, 3D printing applications vary in terms of technological maturity in the field of
healthcare, too. Whereas 3D printing is already common practice in dentistry, 3D bioprinting
of tissues and living cells is still at a stage of fundamental research and far from practical
application. The same counts for 3D food printing, a topic that mainly gained recognition due
to playful applications like the printing of cakes or pasta with special design pattern.
Nevertheless, in the long-term, food printing could be used for creating artificial food for people
with swallowing problems or special nutritional needs. In this way, 3D food printing might
contribute to a higher quality of life for certain target groups.
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The latest development in 3D printing, which also inflamed the recent hype around the topic,
is certainly desktop 3D printing. With the expiration of relevant patents, a plethora of different
desktop 3D printers was brought to market. With the technology becoming faster, more reliable
and cheaper, the low-cost personal 3D printer market experienced a tremendous growth in the
last years. This development coincides with improving design capabilities that enable advances
in computer hardware and software, as well as an improving ability of individual users to
combine and coordinate their innovation-related efforts via internet. In other words, during the
past years, it got continuously easier for consumers to get what they want by designing products
for themselves – a development that inflamed the so-called maker movement. The maker
movement is strongly dedicated to local, collaborative and community-based inventions. Thus,
scholars argue that 3D printing brings about the advent of home-based product printing, which
might trigger the development of a more design-oriented economy as a potential successor to
the information economy (Easton, 2009). The earlier-mentioned tremendous market growth in
the area of desktop 3D printers and the vast amount of open-source design and file sharing
platforms for 3D models as well as the physical objects, such as Thingiverse or Shapeways,
could be seen as first indicators for these hypotheses.
Nevertheless, to date, makers remain a comparably small niche and the future development of
home 3D printing is far from certain. Only the next years will reveal in how far individual
behavior of a critical mass of people will be changed by 3D printing. As stated, this is mainly
dependent on technical advancements in home 3D printing. Hardware manufacturers, however,
have recognized deficiencies and have begun to develop desktop models with significantly
bigger chamber sizes (Stratasys, 2014a).
Bringing the three fields – AM for industrial production, healthcare and in the consumer market
– together, the macro-environmental revealed that the market for AM technology and related
services is far from being saturated and offers significant financial potential in the future, both
for Germany and on a global scale. Furthermore, it is likely that AM could also positively
contribute to other important pillars of society: first, to society by empowering people and
consumers around the globe and thereby contributing to the field of sustainable human
development; and second, to environmental protection by mainly offering possibilities for
emissions savings and waste reduction along the life-cycle of products. Nevertheless, it became
also evident that some of the main factors that currently impede a broader dissemination and
adoption of 3D printing technology, are located in the legal and regulatory area. There are many
open questions in this field, reaching from issues of intellectual property to complicated
procedures for part approval. Thus, to enable a thriving 3D printing landscape, these regulatory
challenges need to be overcome in order to set the right boundary conditions. For a summary
of the macro-environmental assessment, see table 15.
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Table 15: Summary of macro-environmental assessment. Source: Own research.
Macro-Environmental Assessment of AM
Germany
 Research activities at several universities, research institutions and corporations.
 Research mainly in the field of industrial applications, AM technology, mass customization and
materials
 No overarching research program other than on EU level
European Union
 20 EU FP7 work streams focused on AM (combined value: €99.3 million)
 SASAM project for AM standardization
 European Working Group EMAG
 Pioneering role: Great Britain with so far around €99.3 million investments in AM research
Public support &
USA
research activities
 The National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI)
 National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Youngstown, Ohio (US-$50 million public
support) with 94 member consortium to drive AM progress and 20 collaborative research projects
 Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute in Chicago, Illinois (US-$70 million federal
investment)
 US-$ 5.0 billion public funding for manufacturing startups
China
 Asian Manufacturing Association (AMA) announced to establish10 3D printing innovation institutes in
China with initial funding of US-$3.3 million each
 City of Shanghai substitutes 100 maker spaces with US-$ 80.000 each
Global market
 Global market reached volume of US-$ 3.07 billion in 2013
 Future global market expectations vary; Wohlers Associates estimate US-$ 10.8 billion by 2021
 Over the past 26 years, the average growth rate of global revenues was 27%
 Desktop 3D printing market grew annually on average by 346% from 2008 to 2011
Economic
expectations
 Metal AM market grew by nearly 75.8% in the last 14 years
German market
 German 3D printing market is estimated to be 15-20% of global market
 3D printing could serve as enabling technology for Industry 4.0
 New market opportunities for German companies in all areas
Current issues
 Open questions with regard to intellectual property (copyright, patents, trademarks and licensing
 No quality standards and norms for 3D-printed products in the consumer market
 Complicated procedures of product approval and certification
Legal and regulatory
impacts
Need for new (trans-)national modes of regulation
 Modes for standardization and product approval both in the industrial and end-user AM market required
 New tools in IP (e.g. micro-patents, new licensing opportunities) required
 Environmental standards required
From consumer to prosumer
 Consumer empowerment
 Possibility of mass customization
 Shift in consumer-producer relationships
An emerging maker movement
Societal implications
 Increasing dissemination of desktop 3D printers
 Increasing group of home & DIY innovators and small-scale producers
Environmental
impacts
3D printing in developing countries
 3D printing to enable self-directed sustainable development
 Access to education and healthcare supplies
Possible positive impacts
 Reduction of amount of raw material due to higher material efficiency
 Lighter products result in CO2 emission savings
 Leaner supply chains due to automised production and less transportation
 Omission of certain materials might reduce pollution
 New design possibilities can enhance durability of products
Possible negative impacts
 Printing materials are often toxic and based on petrochemicals
 Limited recycling opportunities might increase waste
 Printing process is energy-consuming
 Particulate emissions due to printing processes
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5.1.2 3D printing: Quo vadis?
This report has shown multiple perspectives on the future of 3D printing that highly differed
depending on the area of interest. In industrial AM, experts agreed that AM technologies are
not a fundamentally disruptive, yet promising new production tool that might have the potential
to significantly influence certain industry branches. In contrast to that, in the healthcare sector
– and especially in the area of 3D bioprinting – AM methods provide truly disruptive potential.
The most uncertain future, however, is the role of 3D printing in the consumer market. There,
opinions highly vary and at this point in time no clear statement can be made. Therefore, four
different scenarios have been developed that can serve as a basis for further investigations.
Figure 14 at the end of this chapter depicts a summary of these future scenarios as derived from
the study at hand. Furthermore, as displayed in exhibit 4, this evaluation also reflects the
opinions of the interviewed experts.
To put it in a nutshell, even though 3D printing may not inflame the next industrial revolution,
it is definitely an important manufacturing technology that can have a huge impact on certain
sectors. This notion even becomes stronger when comparing the potential benefits of AM with
the long-term high-tech strategy of Germany as a global leader in industry and manufacturing.
Perspectives on 3D printing
“I would not compare 3D printing to the internet or the steam-engine or something like that. Rather compare it for example
with a CNC (Computerized Numerical Control) milling machine. These computer-controlled machines basically also
brought more flexibility and more possibilities in construction without revolutionizing the whole world of production. (...)
Bioprinting would really have the potential to develop into a real revolution. But this is a totally separated topic from
industrial 3D printing in my view: First, it is still in the phase of fundamental research and second, the actors are totally
different from those in the industrial 3D printing area.”
Interviewee 1
„I think that particularly in the area of medical applications – be it 3D printing for medical manufacturing or 3D bioprinting
with biological materials– 3D printing and additive manufacturing technologies bear a significant disruptive potential.
Individualized design is probably more needed here than in any other application area.”
Interviewee 7
“I think that in future you cannot ignore this technology. In certain areas, additive manufacturing is a substitution
technology, but on the whole it is a supplemental technology, which offers the possibility to build totally new construction
parts and also business models. (...) There is the risk that at the moment the topic is extremely hyped and that today’s
promises will not be kept. (...) If this is a revolution – that is something others should decide. (...) I think it is definitely an
important technology and I think you make a mistake if you do not intensely deal with this topic”
Interviewee 12
“There is a conglomerate of new technologies and developments such as digital factories, decentralized manufacturing
and new business models. 3D printing is a tiny element thereof and the current hype is not justified. (...) 3D printing is
another method for primary shaping and manufacturing, which has advantages and disadvantages over conventional
methods. You have to minimize the disadvantages and utilize the advantages - that is the usual thing with new
technologies. It may develop further and gain more importance, but at the moment its impact is minimal. Thus, in my
opinion it will have only marginal macro-economic effects. Only if the whole maker movement gains momentum and drives
a certain societal transformation: if people increasingly value individualization and the recoupment of sovereignty over their
own products, because they can repair most devices themselves, then this would mean a huge influence. However, this
would be a social trend of our time, which is somehow independent of the advanced manufacturing technology.”
Interviewee 10 [focus of the interview was the plastic material market]
Exhibit 4: Perspectives on 3D printing: Quotes from the expert interviews. Source. Own research.
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It is likely that AM will strongly influence the mechanical engineering, automotive, aerospace
and medical engineering industries, which are all of high importance for Germany.
Furthermore, upcoming fields like 3D bioprinting offer opportunities to establish new fields of
expertise and global leadership. Thus, especially for Germany the topic of 3D printing is of
very high relevance and has a tremendous potential.
The international comparison of AM research activities and public funding around the world
showed, however, that in Germany public support of AM technology is not as strong as in other
countries. Especially the USA and China aim for a pioneering role in that area and have adopted
large budgets for research activities, innovation and startup funding. Thereby, both nations do
not only focus on AM for industrial applications, but also specifically support the arising maker
movement by fostering the establishment of public maker spaces and facilitating access to the
technology.
To secure its competitive advantage as the world’s leading high-tech nation, Germany should
promote AM technology and ensure public support for research and innovation programs that
go beyond EU programs. Therefore, 10 policy recommendations have been formulated that can
serve as a basis for further proceedings.
Figure 12: 3D printing: Quo vadis? Source: Own illustration.
5.2 Policy recommendations
As this report has demonstrated, additive manufacturing technology bears significant
innovation potential in several areas. To generate first mover advantages and secure its role as
a global leader in the area of engineering and high-tech manufacturing, Germany should
encourage industry players and consumers alike to adapt this new technology, build up relevant
expertise and develop a competitive edge. The following section presents specific policy
recommendations for fostering 3D printing activities in Germany. The recommendations are
clustered into three parts: (I) Recommendations to support the advancement of the technology
as such and to facilitate its integration into manufacturing practices; (II) recommendations to
deal with regulatory issues and framework conditions; and (III) recommendations to foster the
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adoption of 3D printing technology by end-consumers. Table 16 provides a summary of the
recommendations, which are then explained in the upcoming sections.
Table 16: Overview of policy recommendations. Source: Own illustration.
Area
Part I:
Unleashing the technology’s full
potential
Part II:
Defining framework conditions for an
emerging 3D printing market
Part III:
Enabling a thriving 3D printing
landscape
Recommendation
I.I Public funding for fundamental and applied research
I.II Establishment and support of interdisciplinary and trans-regional 3D
printing clusters
II.I Establish an expert group to clarify open regulatory and legal
questions
II.II Investigation of new solutions in the area of intellectual property
II.III Establishing mechanisms for consumer protection and quality
assurance
II.IV Developing new mechanisms for standardization and product
approval
III.I Enhancing general visibility of and accessibility to 3D printing
technology
III.II Integration of 3D printing in education agendas for schools and
universities across disciplines
III.III Establishing a 3D printing information platform for end-users
III.IV Fostering entrepreneurship in the area of 3D printing
5.2.1 Part I: Unleashing the technology’s full potential
I.I Public funding for fundamental and applied research
To unleash the full potential of AM printing technology and foster its integration in
state-of-the-art manufacturing processes, additional research has to be conducted.
Research topics thereby reach from fundamental research, for instance in the area of
bioprinting and materials, to applied research, for instance for 3D printing applications
and to investigate micro- and macroeconomic implications. The country comparison
(see chapter 4.1) illustrated that certain countries, like the USA and China, already
support advancements in 3D printing research with large public funds. Therefore, we
propose the ongoing inclusion of AM-related topics into national research and
innovation programs. Interviewee 7 furthermore emphasized the need for public funding
especially in the area of 3D bioprinting since research in this area is still at an early stage
making it difficult to generate private funding from industry partners. Interviewee 5
stressed that the first priority in supporting 3D printing in Germany should be funding
of research and industry programs in order to solve existing technical challenges.
Another proposal comes from interviewee 12 who suggested a research program that
specifically focusses on additive manufacturing (instead of having more general
manufacturing technology research programs) and that is tailored to small and mediumsized companies in that area. This suggestion aligns with recommendation III.IV.
I.II Establishment and support of interdisciplinary and trans-regional 3D printing
clusters
Most experts, who were interviewed in the course of this study, agreed that the
establishment of interdisciplinary and trans-regional 3D printing clusters could leverage
current research and development activities. The full potential of 3D printing is only
unleashed if expertise from different disciplines is merged into trans-disciplinary
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knowledge. Therefore, we propose the foundation of collaborative platforms that bring
together experts from different disciplines (such as design, engineering, material
sciences, medicine) and actively promote mutual knowledge exchange. Such
collaboration platforms could follow first existing examples.
For instance, in 2014, the first open 3D Printing Cluster in Germany has been
established by UnternehmerTUM (Technical University of Munich), the Strascheg
Center for Entrepreneurship (Hochschule Munich) and EOS GmbH in Munich. The goal
of the cluster is to create an interdisciplinary network of actors from all over Germany
and to stimulate new innovative startups based on the industrial 3D printing technology
(EOS, 2014c). Therefore, open networking evenings and information sessions take
place on a regular basis in Munich.
Another international example for collaborative working spaces are the aforementioned
four manufacturing innovation hubs that have been established in the USA to bring
together businesses and the Departments of Defense, Energy, Commerce, NASA and
the National Science Foundation. Such hubs enable businesses in the affected industries
to inform themselves about AM and explore together with experts how they can adopt
AM in their industry. This is a direct way to carry the benefits of AM into existing
industries.
5.2.2 Part II: Defining framework conditions for an emerging 3D printing
market
II.I Establish an expert group to clarify open regulatory and legal questions
As elaborated in chapter 4.4, the emergence of 3D printing technology and its broad
dissemination creates a range of new issues in the regulatory and legal landscape.
Answers to these questions require careful thought to balance competing policies, for
instance in the area of intellectual property. Therefore, it is encouraged to establish an
expert group existing of 3D printing experts, legal scholars and policy-makers to scope
out the implications of 3D printing in the German and European regulatory system and
to create a proposal for a 3D printing legal roadmap.
II.II Investigation of new solutions in the area of intellectual property
When defining the regulatory framework conditions for the German and European 3D
printing market, particular focus should be put on possible new and innovative solutions
in the area of intellectual property, such as micro-patents, new licensing mechanisms or
encryption systems for file contents.
II.III Establishing mechanisms for consumer protection and quality assurance
To protect customers and minimize risks, mechanisms for quality assurance for 3Dprinted products should be established. On platforms such as Shapeways, specialized
shops12 can sell their 3D design to users. It is advised that shops offering design files or
printed models should comply with predefined quality standards and that commercially
12
http://www.shapeways.com/shops
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distributed products should be verified by an impartial third party. The model of this
third party organization could be inspired by the German Stiftung Warentest with the
goal to evaluate different aspects (e.g. functionality, durability & safety) and to offer a
benchmark to the users, so that they can take educated decisions. Such standards can
also include environmental norms for printers, emissions and feedstock material.
II.IV Developing new mechanisms for standardization and product approval
Even though 3D printing is already used regularly in automotive and aerospace
industries for prototyping purposes, it is rarely used for manufacturing final parts of sold
products. There is a huge potential of 3D printing in final manufacturing especially of
customized and individualized products, which cannot be realized due to complex
certification and approval processes for new parts. Costly approval and certification
processes are an important barrier for realizing the added-value services especially in
small batch productions and custom products. Changing the requirements from the
focus on final parts to the focus on material properties (e.g. automatic approval for new
individual parts, which are printed with standardized and certified material for which
minimum wall thicknesses depending on tensile and pressure loads are defined), these
processes could be accelerated. As this could unleash a huge potential of innovations
and value creation, standardization institutions (e.g., International Standards
Organizations or the Association of German Engineers) and regulatory authorities
should address this topic and come up with new norms, standards and lean product
approval processes.
5.2.3 Part III: Enabling a thriving 3D printing landscape
III.I Enhancing general visibility of and accessibility to 3D printing technology
To counteract the skepticism of AM and to increase technology acceptance, it is
necessary to educate the broader public about the nature of AM and its potential.
Therefore, several measures can be taken: First, policy makers can publicly show their
trust in this new technology by including the topic in their policy agendas and supporting
related events like fairs and exhibitions, such as Euromold 2014 in Frankfurt or the
Maker Fair 2014 in Munich. Hosting and endorsing such events not only generates
visibility for AM, but also might encourage entrepreneurship since the topic gains
momentum and attracts potential innovators. Secondly, information campaigns through
different channels and well-documented articles in mass media targeted to a lay
audience can help to raise awareness for 3D printing. Thirdly, the establishment of
public “maker spaces” in which consumers can explore 3D printing via experimental
workshops can provide easy access to 3D printers and might foster small-scale
innovation activities. In the USA, the innovation company TechShop is a highly
successful provider of such “maker spaces”. In October 2013, it was announced that the
BMW Group and the Entrepreneurship Centre at Technical University Munich
(UnternehmerTUM) will open up the first TechShop in Munich in Spring 2015 (BMW
Group, 2015).
94
III.II Integration of 3D printing in education agendas for schools and universities across
disciplines
The adaptation of education is one of the most vital steps in facilitating the adoption of
a new technology. Therefore, three recommendations with regard to the integration of
3D printing in education agendas for schools and universities are proposed:
First, 3D printing bears great potential as a toolkit for technology education in early
childhood and adolescence. Especially desktop 3D printers with their ease of use and
playful application possibilities (e.g. printing of toys and figurines) offer significant
learning opportunities whilst maintaining the aesthetic aspects requested by children.
By working with simple 3D printers, children may learn about the entire manufacturing
process – from digital product design to object printing – in a fun, hands-on and
understandable way. Therefore, 3D printing can significantly contribute to taking away
children’s fear of technology and foster early interest in technical topics. Currently, first
schools in Bavaria13 collaborate with institutions to offer 3D printing workshops to their
students. The high demand for places in these workshops show that pupils are interested
in the technology.
Second, since 3D printing is likely to affect different areas of production and industry,
the topic should be integrated in university curriculums across various disciplines
(interview 1; 2014; interview 4, 2014). This might not only include technical study
programs like engineering or industrial design, but also non-tech study programs such
as medicine or biology. Therefore, universities could establish AM Knowledge Centers
that are open for students of all relevant study backgrounds, such as biology, industrial
manufacturing and design. Here, special courses in innovation and product development
can train students to take the new opportunities and concepts of AM into consideration.
Such a measure would help to train “hybrid” designers and foster interdisciplinary
discussions about the topic. Furthermore, in order to incentivize students to work with
AM, universities, schools or public institutions can host competitions that aim on
solving part design problems by understanding and applying the ways of designing and
producing parts. These incipient actions should be leveraged by offering specific
electives to students on all aspects of 3D printing (e.g., on intellectual property,
computer-aided-design, material properties).
Third, even more specialized degrees in additive manufacturing, for instance as
interdisciplinary Master of Science programs, could enrich the current graduate
education landscape. One existing example is the Master’s degree in Regenerative
Medicine & Technology, a joint program that is offered by the Queensland University
of Technology and the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia, along
with University Medical Center Utrecht (Netherlands) and the University of Würzburg
(Germany) (Molitch-Hou, 2014b).
13
http://www.gymnasium-trudering.de/fablab.html
95
III.III Establishing a 3D printing information platform for end-users
Whereas hubs and copy-shops can provide users with access to 3D printing technology,
there often remains a high amount of insecurity with regard to intellectual property
regulations on the user side. To support home 3D printing and small-scale innovation
activities, the users should be well-informed about their rights to protect their own
constructions and their limits to modify and use other people’s creations. Therefore, it
is advisable to develop prevailing and easy-to-use guidelines dedicated for 3D printing
user innovation. Furthermore, users of 3D printers should be educated about possible
environmental impacts, risks and the current lack of quality standards with regard to
desktop 3D printing. One way of providing these services could include the
development of a publicly funded web-based information platform.
III.IV Fostering entrepreneurship in the area of 3D printing
3D printing is an auspicious field for entrepreneurial activities, both directly in the
additive manufacturing industry itself and in industries affected by these new
manufacturing technologies. First, even though there are established players (e.g.
Stratasys, 3DSystems, EOS, Makerbot) in the additive manufacturing industry, it is still
a relatively young industry with promising very young newly started companies (e.g.
AIO Robotics, Wamungo) and room for further startups to supplement the existing
ecosystem within this heavily growing market. Second, 3D printing technologies can
tremendously decrease entrance barriers for startups offering hardware-based products
through the acceleration of developing processes and enabling competitive small batch
production. Thus, additive manufacturing technologies could potentially enable the
creation of new companies and lead to a sustainable economic growth and numerous
new jobs. However, as there seems to be a lack of venture capital in Germany compared
to other parts in the world (e.g. USA) possibly due to an overcautious and risk-averse
mentality, public support in the form of venture capital and subsidies especially for the
seed phase and early stages of startups could lead to a blossom of the German startup
scene. Furthermore, innovation centers that bring together creative, ambitious and
entrepreneurial students and young professionals of various complementary disciplines
(e.g., mechanical engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, business
administration) can foster the formation of successful founding teams.
96
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