3D Printing

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Advantages For The Modern Business

1. What Exactly is 3D Printing?

3D Printing is a new concept which has emerged and come to the forefront of many businesses minds in recent years. It can be defined as a process of making three dimensional solid objects, and manufacturing them, from a digital file. This process is completed by firstly creating a virtual design of the item you wish to manufacture in a CAD (Computer Aided Design) format using a 3D modelling program. This file is then chopped into many small layers by the software and processed in a 3D printer. The printer then creates the object layer by layer with no visible sign of layering or construction (3D Printing; 2015).

Table of Contents

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3D printer in action

This technique has emerged and grown in popularity, with many firms adopting 3D printing at different levels of their organisation, whether it be manufacturing, or for live production of customised product in stores. Since its invention, 3D Printing has been touted as a minor phenomenon with it also being dubbed however as ‘the next chapter in the industrial revolution’ (Stephen; 2015). On the other hand, this contemporary technique of manufacturing products has raised many concerns as well as any potential advantages and benefits which businesses can utilise and embrace to improve their operations and scope for new consumers.

2. A Brief History

3D Printing is a relatively new technology which has become ever so popular with many businesses in the past decade. Its origins however do stretch back further than this, as the technology used in 3D printers was invented back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. The original technology, known as ‘Stereolithography’ (SLA) was invented by Charles Hull in 1983. Sterelithography was the first technology developed to allow users to create solid 3D objects from a CAD/CAM file.
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Charles Hull with a Stereolithography 3D printer
It works by ‘curing and solidifying’ layers of liquid photopolymer using an ultraviolet laser. Through this, 3D printing was born (McLellan; 2014). In its time, this was the only technology used in 3d printers, but now two more significant techniques of printing have been developed. These are Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and Fused Deposition modelling (FDM).FDM however does not use a laser. Instead, plastic filaments are dispensed through a heated nozzle, and layer by layer the object is built up. This is the slowest method of contemporary 3D printing (TechPage; 2015). SLS uses a laser to heat and fuse together powdered metal, plastic or ceramic in thin, cross sectioned layers, to form a 3D design.These methods are now all used in a variety of ways in many different organisations, and also by consumers themselves in their own homes. The meteoric rise which 3D printing markets have experienced is predicted to grow and keep growing in the recent future. The market value currently stands at $3.8billion and it is estimated that by 2018, this would have more than quadrupled, with market value rising to $16.2billion globally (Columbus; 2014).

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Global 3D printing market value predictions

3. Materials Used

As 3D printing technology has advanced, there has been a growth in the number of materials available for firms to use, as well as consumers. These include many different types of plastics and now even metals which can form any designed product. These materials are all able to be manipulated however you would like them to be, depending on the design of a product. As well as this, there are less conventional materials which are currently being used and/or tested for many different purposes. One example, is the use of a 3D printer to develop replacement organs or bone tissues. In bone tissue engineering, the advantages include the control of fine features (Bose, Vahabzadeh & Bandyopadhyay; 2013). There is true versatility in 3D printing, and the plethora of materials which can be developed in a 3D printer is growing day by day.

4. Main Advantages

3D printing as a whole present many advantageous opportunities for firms operating in all sectors. Although there are some issues with 3D printing too, it can be argued that the advantages outweigh these possible threats to a business. These advantages range from manufacturing objectives, to other general operational benefits that 3D printing can also present for many firms.
One general advantage to 3D printing as a whole is the amount of potential products which can be designed and manufactured using the modern technology that is readily available today. Some examples of products that have been made are:
  • Ø 3D printed knife – This is a 3D printed knife, which is able to cut straight though paper perfectly. This knife is constructed from plastic, unlike traditional products of its kind:

  • Ø 3D printed gun with functioning parts – This gun and all functioning components have been printed in a 3d printer and then put together to form a working pistol, which can shoot metal bullets at a high force:

  • Ø 3D printed toys and other soft goods (specifically Disney) – Disney have presented a few examples of a new brand of 3D printing. They have explored the world of manufacturing soft toys and components using different and unconventional materials:

These are only a few examples of everyday products that can be constructed by a 3D printer from a simple CAD file.

4.1 Customisation of Products

This provides businesses with many opportunities for allowing customer to customise products, therefore allowing companies to provide a bespoke service. From this, Stoetzel (2012) argues that consumers can fulfill their specific needs and take pride in having created a unique result. One example of this is Amazon, who are now allowing consumers to customize many different products on their specifically designated 3D printing store. The Director for Amazon Marketplace Sales, Petra Schindler-Carter, refers to the process as an ‘immersive customer experience’. This could potentially be a game-changing system, provided by Amazon, particularly if it grows (Clark; 2014).
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'Makie's' dolls
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New Balance 3D printed running shoe
Amazon are not the only firm to innovate in this way, with New Balance (the running shoe giant) following suit by releasing the first custom built 3D printed running shoes for elite athletes. Although aimed at a smaller consumer base, this is still an example of how 3D printing is revolutionising manufacturing techniques and processes. By utilizing a proprietary process, the brand is able to produce spike plates customized to the individual needs and desires of their elite athletes (Lawton; 2013). Another example of a firm which has adopted 3D printing is Hamleys. The toy giant, situated in London, have started to stock a line of ‘Makies’, the first 3D printed doll to hit the mainstream toy market. In 2014, it was listed as one of Hamleys’ ‘Magnificent Seven’ gifts to have (Molitch-Hou; 2014).

With the proliferation of social media and constant access to it through smartphones etc., the retail experience is enhanced even further. Consumers now expect real-time, customized everything at any touch point (Reed; 2014). This view can be applied to the many examples presented above. All of the firms mentioned have noticed this trend and have adapted to suit the conditions of the market without too much drastic change. They have simply used 3D printing as a mode for change which now allows consumers to customize the products they are purchasing.

4.2 Reduced Wastage

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If a firm adopts 3D printing in their strategic approach to manufacturing products, there can be many visible benefits. One of these is that it is possible to cut out wastage with the use of just in time production. As opposed to traditional machinery, a 3D printer can fabricate articles of immense detail in a fraction of the time of traditional methods, with lower costs and less residual wastage (Peck; 2014). Wastage is reduced as if just in time production is adopted, products are only produced when a consumer specifically wants it. There will be less surplus stock leftover for a firm to store or sell at a lower price if it becomes outdated. Tomat (2013) states that one of the most important elements a company should take into account is the amount of leftover being thrown away (trim loss) that represents an unnecessary cost for the company. Therefore it is rational to minimalize the trim loss as much as possible. Again, by adopting 3D printing and offering consumers a customised product, there is a chance to heavily reduce stock wastage as the product at hand will be made to specifically suit the direct consumer. The only limitation of this is that only certain products will be able to be produced in this manner due to the materials available.

4.3 Shift from Long Distance to ‘Last Mile’ Production

In terms of manufacturing, firms can now adapt to enhance their manufacturing strength by utilising the benefits of 3D printing technologies. It is argued that there is now and in the future a reduced need to haul goods half way across the world because they can now be printed closer to the consumer. This does however depend on whether 3D printing is capable of replacing more conventional and traditional modes of constructing products (Travers; 2015: 44). As distance is reduced, many costs can be reduced too, in relation to the shorter length of time that a delivery will take. These cost savings, couple with a high demand due to customisation of products, can allow for the firm to leverage extra funds into other areas of the firm. This can therefore, for smaller firms, lead to growth, which may be a significant part of their strategy which they want to push through.
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The 'Last-Mile' delivery

Hessman (2013) states that a supply chain containing 3D printing technology will tear the global supply chain apart and re-assemble it as a new, local system. This local supply chain helps firms find the value of manufacturing low volumes, and producing more customer specific products. Cunningham (2006) also presents some benefits of 3D printing being used as a speedy manufacturing tool. He states that 3D printing goes beyond rapid prototyping- its rapid manufacturing of real parts in real materials. This fully expresses what the true advantage is of 3D printing in manufacturing, it speeds up the process tenfold whilst allowing for more accurate and technical designs to be created using real materials. This, coupled with a localised strategy, can make the process even more efficient. The shift to a last mile approach can be highly beneficial to businesses, as higher volumes can be shifted in a shorter space of time.

4.4 Faster Processes

A business encases a group of processes and elements that can enable it to run smoothly. These however can always be improved and constantly adapted due to advances in technology or even market conditions. 3D printing is an example of this, and firms can improve many of their processes by implementing it slowly into their operations.One notable process which can be rapidly improved by 3D printing is repairs and maintenance in and around the workplace in any business. For example, in a coffee shop, it is essential to ensure that the coffee machine itself is working constantly and maintained to a high standard. If the worst happens and a part was to break in the machine, by simply having a 3D printer on-site, a brand new copy of the broken fitting can be produced and installed immediately. There will no longer be a need for specific engineers to be sent from the manufacturer (Love; 2013). This accelerated speed of repair and maintenance can allow firms to limit downtime of popular products etc. when certain things do go wrong, creating a more positive customer experience if this does happen.

4.5 Easier Prototyping

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Example of a 3D printed prototype

Prototyping plays a key part in the design and development process of any product or concept, so it is extremely important to be able to create prototypes that accurately display a products functionality. Using a 3D printer to do this will enable a faster and more efficient approach to producing these functional models. If any problems do arise with the prototype, it is easy on a design software to correct these problems and simple re-print the prototype. These problems can thus be nipped in the bud extremely quickly (Batra; 2012). Prototyping is important for firms, as Schrage (2000) explains, claiming that prototypes can engage an organizations thinking in the explicit and create conversations in the firm. Prototypes help generate improvement ideas within groups in the firm and a culture of quality management can be born as employees must analyse the prototype effectively. Prototypes are important for firms, especially small firms and entrepreneurs looking to take a new product to market. This is why 3D printing can be essential to a firm when prototyping products, as it increases accuracy and the scope for changing and developing many models before true manufacture.

5. Contemporary Relevance to the Business World

3D printing as a concept has become widely more accepted and utilised within businesses in recent years, even though the technology itself has been around for 3 whole decades. As 3D printing is new in terms of its growth in use as a technique for manufacturing, it can be justified as a highly relevant new trend in the contemporary business world.
It is important for firms in the modern business environment to analyse the effects that a shift will have on the way their business operates, and also whether they need to implement this technology into their operational strategy to keep up with competition. One example of this is that of Hewlett-Packard, who have opted into the 3D printing industry by developing their already successful inkjet printer heads into 3D printing heads. Although it is already a ‘crowded market’, HP have seen success from other firms, and have realised that in order to stay competitive in the consumer printing market, they have had to shift from producing traditional printers. With this, they hope to push rival firms that have not entered this market yet ‘out of business’ (Anders; 2014).
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HP's 3D printers

As well as innovating new technologies like HP have, 3D printing is also highly relevant for businesses in terms of manufacturing. The modern manufacturing process can be adapted to allow for 3D printing to be utilised appropriately. If a firm is operating in a market where 3D printing is growing, they will need to innovate and change the way they manufacture and distribute their products. Fjelstad (2015) argues that time and timing are arguably the most important factors for a business. 3D printing allows the manufacturer to make mistakes at a prodigious rate enabling much faster cycles of learning than have ever been available to the willing student. Manufacturing can become more efficient in any firm due to this, especially if they can reduce the time taken by a substantial amount.
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DEFCAD webpage

Another reason why 3D printing is relevant for the contemporary business is that as it is becoming a highly commercialised sector, everyday consumers can now access 3D printing files at home. If they then own a 3D printer, they can print the products at home, without any ramifications. This is a huge problem for businesses as it could potentially become a lot harder to keep technology and products tied down to patent laws etc., especially if consumers can decipher the design processes and then share the file online for others to print themselves. An example of this becoming an issue for businesses, is the launch for the ‘Pirate-Bay’ of 3D Printing. The company named DEFCAD (the firm which released the downloadable functioning gun parts) have announced recently that they will launch a separate section of their business, solely focused on sharing torrent style 3D print files for consumers to download as they please at their own home (BBC News; 2013).

6. Summary

To summarise, it is evident that 3D printing presents many opportunities for large and small businesses alike operating in many different sectors. This does not however necessarily focus on the full picture, as there are some disadvantages and drawbacks to 3D printing too. It can be hard for a firm to fully re train current staff in the ways of 3D printing technology, so it is up to them whether they see it as feasible. This new trend in the business world has a number of potential growth aspects, and if the predictions go ahead as expected, 3D printing markets will bloom worldwide very, very soon.

3D Bioprinting - a sub-section of 3D printing

1. What is 3D Bioprinting?

As stated above, the first 3D printer was created in 1980. However, it is over most recent years that developments have been made in the design and function of 3D printing, leading to increased production and new developments such as 3D bioprinting: a "highly contested area of technological innovation.” (Telegraph, 2014). The idea of 3D bioprinting is to print cells in order to produce functional tissues, with the aims to develop tissues and organs. This is also known as tissue engineering.With large companies such as Organovo and research universities such as Harvard undertaking research in bioprinting it could be said that bioprinting is a big area for investment. (Kannan, S. 2014) Tissue engineering can also be defined as: "an interdisciplinary field that … [works] toward the development of biological substitutes that restore, maintain, or improve tissue function or a whole organ" (Langer, R. 1993)

2. An introduction to 3D Bioprinting using the 4 P’s

2.1 Product

The products that can be made through the use of 3D bioprinting create new conditions of human existence which changes the world view radically. Another point to consider is that many people could copy the product.

2.2 Person

Bio-printing could not be possible without 3D printing and therefore it started with stereolithography, a form of 3D printing invented by Charles Hull in 1983.
The people affected by this new innovation are the staff from health institutions who may be implementing these products and secondly the patients and how the implementation is carried out and how well it works.

2.3 Process

It is difficult to observe or understand the whole process of bioprinting since it is very biologically complex. Many different institutes are involved in research and development to improve the processes that can be used by bioprinting.

2.4 Press (Environment)

- Resources – Obama administration donates $45 million
- Train workers and help manufacturers access technology

3. The process of Bioprinting:

Instead of printing layer upon layer of thermoplastic or molten metal on top of one another such as the processes of stereolithography and selective laser sintering, the process of bioprinting instead prints with something called BioInk. (Reigner, F et al, 2010).

The process is as follows:

  1. Extract cells form the concerned organ or stem cell.
  2. Grow cells outside the body in large quantities. (This will take approximately four weeks).
  3. Load BioInk and Hydrogels into printer
    • Hydrogel is a synthetic matrix, which is used as scaffolding for cells
    • BioInk is the name given to cells that are loaded (like ink) into a printer
  4. A layer of hydrogel is printed followed by a layer of Bio Ink
  5. This process is repeated until the desired shape or organ is made
  6. The cells fuse together
  7. The tissue is left to grow
  8. The hydrogel is removed

(Moskvitch, 2013)
(Atala, A, 2009)

4. But the first bladder was made in 1999?

It may be confusing to some that the idea of 3D bioprinting did not come about sooner, since Atala medically engineered a bladder back in 1999. Although the process was very similar to bio-printing, he did not print the bladder, he rather scaffold tissues and muscles in the shape of organs.

Atala’s process was as follows:

  1. 1. The cells were extracted from the bladder
  2. 2. The tissue and the muscle were then teased apart
  3. 3. The cells were grown for 4 weeks
  4. 4. A bladder shaped scaffold was coated with tissue
  5. 5. The scaffold was then coat with muscles
  6. 6. The product was put in an oven-like device
  7. 7. The bladder was then replaced

As an experimental study, Atala then implanted these bladders into 7 volunteers. (Atala, A, 2009)

5. Statistics – Waiting time

The amount of patients on organ waiting lists has decreased since 2010, as more families are agreeing to donate after seeing a family member go through organ transplant surgery. However, although this is the case, there are still 7027 UK patients on the waiting list as of 2014.

The following bullet points show the statistics of how long it takes to receive various organ transplants for adults and children as of the year 2013.

- Kidney Transplant
- Adult – 1114 days
- Child – 214 days
- Heart Transplant
- Adult – 441 days
- Child – 214 days
- Liver Transplant
- Adult – 145 days
- Child – 72 days

1000 people die in the UK each year waiting for an organ, because they are too ill to survive. This means that 14% of UK patients will die this year.

(Statistics, 2013)
(Transplants Save Lives, 2014)

6. This is where 3D bioprinting comes in!

It currently takes 6-8 weeks to medically engineer an organ but it is the growing of the cells outside the body that takes the most time. It actually only takes 10 days to bioprint a liver (Williams,R, 2014) and 8-10 hours to print a non vital kidney (Atala, A, 2009). With additional research and development, which is continually being done, these organs can be printed much faster. Nevertheless, at the current rate, these organs are being printed in a shorter period of time than all average waiting times stated above.

7. STRENGTHS of Bio-printing:

7.1 Reduction of healthcare costs

Each institute can have their own printer, which means there will be no need for the shipping of organs from across the world or different parts of the country. This will therefore reduce healthcare costs, waste and transportation emissions.

7.2 Decrease the chances of surgery complications

Bioprinting will “deposit cells with a microscale resolution” (Bordeuax, V et al., 2010) Bioprinting will decrease the amount of surgery complications since the cells can be taken from each individual patient and the cells will be the same, hence the body will not reject the organ.

7.3 Reduction of terminal patients

There will be a reduction of terminal patients.

7.4 Reduction in dead cells

According to experts, when printing thick layers of tissue, the inner cells starve for nutrients and oxygen, which means 50-80% of cells die before even leaving the petri dish. However, the use of hydrogel - the scaffolding-like structure that supports the functional tissue in a human organ - will allow layers to be accessed, meaning that 100% of the cells will survive.

7.5 Reduction in Psychological problems

According to the British Journal of Psychology, one in seven patients experience, psychological problems after surgery due to pain and anxiety. The use of personalisation in bioprinting hopes to eliminate such anxiety as well as decreasing the pain the patients feel after their operations. (

(Organovo, 2014)
(Guillotin, B et al., 2010)
(Wyss Institute, 2014)

8. WEAKNESSES of Bio-printing:

8.1 Highly expensive technology

According the The Economist, “Organovo’s … new machine … costs around $200,000” (2010). With the ability to print human cells, 3D bioprinters are of a very high calibre, and it is not surprising that they cost a large sum of money. This could be a potential downfall for institutions since they may not have the budget to spend on new equipment.

8.2 Further research and development needed

Although the discussion above sounds very realistic, there is still a lot of work to be done on the development of bio-printed organs and it will be another ten to fifteen years before bioprinted organs become commercialized. Products must be 100% safe According to NICE – National Institute for Health and Care Excellence:“Are you ready to place this into your own loved one?” (Atala, A, 2009)

(The Economist, 2010)
(Hsu, J, 2013)
(Atala, A, 2009)

9. OPPORTUNITIES of Bioprinting

9.1 Utilization

Bioprinting can be utilised in many different ways, it can be used to bio-print a heart, liver, kidneys and it can also be used to print skin over large wounds.

9.2 Drugs testing

Through the use of bioprinting, drugs testing can be accomplished using manufactured human cells. Viruses, vaccinations and various other drugs can all be tested on human cells, meaning there will be a reduction in the amount of animal and human testing.

9.3 Product

The product can be introduced to all health sectors including the NHS as well as private hospitals and surgeries.

10. THREATS of Bio-printing using PESTEL

10.1 Political

According to IP attorney John Hornick, 3D printers “provide a fertile ground for intellectual property theft” (2014). “Everything will change when you can make anything.” (Hornick, J, 2014)

10.2 Economical

3D printers will change retails models and threaten Intellectual Property. Research institutes may produce patents in order to protect their methods for the creation of certain organs and their bioprinting innovations. However with the commercialisation of bioprinting, there will be huge losses for companies holding licenses. According to Gartner, by 2018 $100 billion a year in IP will be lost (2014).

10.3 Sociological

Williams asks the question: is it “giving us the right to play ‘God’”? (Williams, R 2014) If many organs are produced and transplanted into humans, then we will have an ever-growing population. As Hornick mentions, above, if you can make a kidney, you can make anything, and the continual improvement of modern medicine presents the idea that no-one will ever die and the world will soon be over-populated.

10.4 Technological

Many believe that technology is developing too fast and “a major debate is likely to ignite by 2016” (Basilliere, P, 2014) According to some research firms, “the rapid development of 3D bioprinters will spark calls to band the technology for human and non-human tissue within two years.” The research going on worldwide is outpacing regulatory agencies’ ability to keep up.

10.5 Environmental

Despite the savings on waste and emissions from the reduced transportation of organs from far places, a lot of energy will be used by bio-printers and the manufacturing of organs could cause pollution.

10.6 Legal

When thinking about legal problems with bio-printing, the following question is presented: Who controls the right to produce organs?

Due to reduced supply chain and product development costs, criminals can more easily produce counterfeit products by reverse-engineering or replicating products which can then be sold at a cheaper price. The questionable quality of these goods puts consumers, enterprises and even the military at risk, particularly if counterfeit components are used.

11. A few successful innovations

11.1 March 2011

Anthony Atala produced a bioprinted bladder and transplanted it into seven experimental patients.

11.2 September 2013

The first ever working kidneys were created in September of 2013. A Chinese research institute bioprinted miniature vital kidneys that lasted four months.

12. Key steps to managing the future

12.1 Creating vascular structure to support organ tissue

Although a scaffolding structure has already been made to support the printing of kidneys and bladders, since different types of tissue require different macro or micro control, further research and development needs to be done by means of creating a vascular structure for the bioprinting of larger organs. The vascular structure which provides nutrients to organs in the body is managed by blood vessels, but the fact that the tissues produced by 3D printers are very thin, currently prevents the creation of vascular structures for larger organs such as the heart.

12.2 NHS must provide training to staff

Although the commercialisation of bioprinting is far into the future, a better understanding of bioprinted organs will need to be provided to those who work in health institutions which will give patients a better understanding of what is to come and the benefits and possible downsides to such types of surgery.

12.3 Produce strategy to manage the population

As suggested above by Williams, the over population after innovations such as this are inevitable, but implementation strategies and contingency plans nevertheless need to be put into place in order to manage the applicants and recievers of such operations once commercialized. New laws must also be put into place in order to prevent the copyright of such innovations and allow the use of such processes in health institutions when commercialised.

13. Summary

In conclusion, it can be said that the potential for bioprinting with the medicine industry is huge. However through the uses of SWOT and PESTEL analysis, we can see the potential implications and complications that bioprinting may cause. Problems such as intellectual property rights, over population and ethical problems need to be considered before the implementation of bioprinting into commercial situations. There are many plus sides to the uses of bioprinting but the key to managing the future with this innovation is implementation strategies, contingency plans and research and development.

7.0 References

3D Printing. (2015). 3D Printing-What is 3D Printing?. [Online] Available From: http://3dprinting.com/what-is-3d-printing/. [Accessed 1st Feb 2015].

Anders, G. (2014). HP’s 3D Print Breakthrough Could Push Rivals out of Business. [Online] Forbes. Available From: http://www.forbes.com/sites/georgeanders/2014/10/29/hps-3d-print-breakthrough-could-push-rivals-out-of-business/. [Accessed 4th Feb 2015].

Artisan Tony. (2013). 3D Printed Knife – Will it cut paper?. [Online Video] Available From: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4FBpN_vjoM. [Accessed 5th Feb 2015].

Batra, R. (2012). ‘Rapid Prototyping through 3D Printing’. Popular Plastics & Packaging, 57, (10): p.23.

BBC News. (2013). ‘Pirate-Bay’ for 3D Printing Launched. [Online] Available From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-21754915. [Accessed 4th Feb 2015].

Bose, S, Vahabzadeh, S & Bandyopadhyay, A. (2013). ‘Bone Tissue Engineering Using 3D Printing’. Materials Today, 16, (12): p.496-504.

Clark, L. (2014). Amazon lets you customise and 3D print products. [Online] Wired.co.uk. Available From: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2014-07/28/amazon-3d-printing-store. [Accessed 4th Feb 2015].

Columbus, L. (2014). Roundup of 3D printing Market Forecasts & Estimates. [Online] Forbes. Available From: http://www.forbes.com/sites/louiscolumbus/2014/08/09/roundup-of-3d-printing-market-forecasts-and-estimates-2014/. [Accessed 6th Feb 2015].

Cunningham, J. (2006). ‘Market Ready’. Professional Engineering, 19, (10): p.28-29.

Disney Research Hub. (2014). Printing Teddy Bears: A Technique for 3D Printing of Soft Interactive Objects. [Online Video] Available From: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qc-tGbMN9Ms. [Accessed 4th Feb 2015].

Fjelstad, J. (2015). ‘3D Printing in Electronics’. SMT: Surface Mount Technology, 30, (1): p.22-28.

Hessman, T. (2013). ‘Reprinting the Supply Chain’. New Equipment Digest, 78, (10): p.35-36.

Lawton, M. (2013). New Balance Pushes The Limits Of Innovation With 3D Printing. [Online] New Balance. Available From: http://www.newbalance.com/press-releases/id/press_2013_New_Balance_Pushes_Limits_of_Innovation_with_3D_Printing.html. [Accessed 5th Feb 2015].

Love, D. (2013). ‘Why You Should Care About 3D Printing’. [Online] Business Insider. Available From: http://www.businessinsider.com/why-does-3d-printing-matter-2013-1?IR=T. [Accessed 5th Feb 2015].

McLellan, C. (2014). The History of 3D Printing: A Timeline. [Online] ZD Net. Available From: http://www.zdnet.com/article/the-history-of-3d-printing-a-timeline/. [Accessed 2nd Feb 2015].

Molitch-Hou, M. (2014). Makies 3D Printed Dolls Now in Hamleys. [Online] 3D Printing Industry. Available From: http://3dprintingindustry.com/2014/07/05/makies-3d-printed-dolls-now-hamleys/. [Accessed 6th Feb 2015].

Peck, J. (2014). ‘Building on 3D Printing’. Journal of Commerce, 15, (17): p.38.

Reed, N. (2014). ‘Changing Retail Customs’. Response, 22, (12): p.42-46.

Schrage, M. (2000). ‘How Prototypes Can Change Your Business’. Across the Board, 37, (1): p.46.

Shapeways. (2015). 3D Printing Materials. [Online] Available From: http://www.shapeways.com/materials. [Accessed 1st Feb 2015].

Solid Concepts Inc. (2013). World’s First 3D Printed Metal Gun. [Online Video] Available From: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7ZYKMBDm4M. [Accessed 5th Feb 2015].

Stoetzel, M. (2012). ‘Engaging Mass Customization Customers beyond Product Configuration: Opportunities from the Open Innovation Field’. International Journal of Industrial Engineering & Management, 3, (4): p.242.

TechPage. (2014). Types of 3D Printers & Their Uses. [Online] Hub Pages. Available From: http://techpage.hubpages.com/hub/The-Many-Uses-of-3D-Printers. [Accessed 2nd Feb 2015].

Tomat, L. (2013). One-Dimensional Cutting Stock Optimization With Usable Leftover: A Case of Low Stock to Order Ratio. PhD thesis. Ljubljana: University of Ljubljana.

Travers, D. (2015). ‘Impact of 3D printing on manufacturing and logistics’. Logistics & Transport Focus, 17, (2): p.43-45.

14. Additional Bio-printing references:

3D Printing: Make anything you want. (2013) [YouTube] Global News. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0EJmBoLq-g. [Accessed April 2014]

3dsystems, (2014) 3D Systems, [Online] Available from: http://www.3dsystems.com/about-us [Last Accessed: April 2014]

Atala, A. (2009) Growing new organs. TEDMED, October 2009.

Devry University, (2014) blog.devry [Online] Available from: http://blog.devry.edu/2014/01/breathing_life_into_bioprinting.html [Last Accessed: April 2014]

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Disney and 3D printing

There has also been many advantages bought about with the use of 3D printing but recently it has emerged with the invention of printing flexible materials such as fabric. An example of this would be Disney who has revealed that the company is working alongside Carnegie Mellon University with the aim to produce a fabric 3D printer that taps into additive manufacturing. This works in a similar way to the original polymer deposition. There is a laser within the machine that cuts the outline into thick felt. The layers are then place onto the print bed, where a layer of heat-sensitive adhesive is activated. This process continues until the object has been printed, revealing a soft and flexible layered object. There is also the possibility of using different materials and can integrate two types of fabric into a single object. However there are still drawbacks within the new technology, for example there is lots of excess waste material. There is also much work that needs to be done such as the resolution needs to be improved greatly and the adhesive layers aren’t durable enough for children to use without it falling apart. Overall though once all the changes have been made and product has the appropriate changes this will defiantly produce a huge advancements for the future of technology.

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Ford 3D Printing
Ten years ago Ford 3D printed only 4,000 prototype parts for its cars. Today they are now one of five car companies with 3D prototyping printing centers making more than 20,000 parts a year (Mearian, L 2012).

In the future Ford hopes millions of car parts will be used and be printed as quickly ‘as newspapers and as easily as pushing a button on the office copy machine’. Ford can now print rear axles, brake motors and cylinder heads and these are just some of the parts that Ford are now creating using this technology.

These advances will help companies save millions of pounds/dollars (No Author, 2015). Using this technology will not only save money but also reduce their development and production time. Currently Ford is printing a cylinder head that shaves production time from 4-5 months to 3 months. Ford using 3D printing can also help to improve the quality of Ford vehicles as it provides engineers more time to optimize test parts. These savings in production time and costs can help Ford become more efficient. Additionally reducing costs and being able to produce more in a set time could help to increase their profit margins and reduce car prices.

Simply Ford will now be able to produce more vehicles quicker and cheaper. This new technology however will prove beneficial to many more companies. Analysts have predicted that 3D printers will cost less than $2000 by the end of 2016, making them accessible to a lot more companies. Companies with huge budgets similar to Ford’s will easily be able to afford this (Choi, A. 2013)

However while 3D printing will help improve businesses many are against such technology for a number of reasons, one being the risk of unemployment. Many people currently working on creating these parts will eventually become jobless. This new technology replacing current employees could cause major problems for businesses from trade unions. However technology is advancing and cannot be stopped. Companies need to meet consumer demands and need to be innovating and finding new ways to lower costs and produce products quicker (Choi, A. 2013).


Additional content by Hannah Biffen


The main wiki demonstrates the advantages of what 3D printing can bring to the Business world. This wiki will further demonstrate other advantages of the usage of 3D printing within industries, one industry that will be touched on is the Healthcare. The main wiki does not highlight the negative impact of 3D printing to businesses. After reading the main wiki, it is undeniable that 3D printing will have a significant impact on businesses, but it is important for the implications to be highlighted as well. Therefore, this contribution will discuss how 3D printing can cause negative impacts on businesses and will also highlight how 3D printing can damage the manufacturing industry.

3D Printing is described as a ‘revolutionary emerging technology’ (Campbell et al., 2011). Although 3D printing has been around for over twenty years, it has not been considered as a revolutionising trend until now. 3D printing was not accessible for everyone until two years ago, and they have since been designed for anybody to have them in their own homes (Jong et al., 2013). 3D printing is predicted to be a long-term technology as identified in the following quotation, ‘this technology is also sustainable in the sense that is has the potential to be around for many years to come. 3D printing is not going to be a short lived technology’ (Klette-Cusher and Schuerman, 2014:5). Because this is a trend increasing in popularity this demonstrates that the world is yet to see the full effects of 3D printing.

Additional Advantages of 3D Printing

The Healthcare Industry:

The Healthcare Industry is an industry that takes full advantage of modern technology. 3D printing (otherwise known as Bioprinting) is an emerging trend within this industry, it has great potential and will improve the field dramatically. The Healthcare is one of the biggest industries in the world and 3D printing is believed to make an incredible impact within this industry. It is stated that, ‘most people believe Bioprinting is a life-saving technology.’ (Lipson and Kurman, 2013:3). This shows that there is a great deal of optimism surrounding 3D printing.
3D printing has the capability of printing anything from medical drugs to organs (Mesko, 2014). It is said that 3D printing, ‘will tremendously improve the quality of life once the technology is implemented’ (Klette-Cusher and Schuerman, 2014:5). This quotation demonstrates that 3D printing will not disrupt the medical field but will improve the industry significantly.

3D printing has already made unbelievable changes to the Healthcare Industry. The video below shows how a 3D printed trachea has saved a six week old baby.
3D printed trachea.jpg
Fig 1. (On 3D printing, 2013)

This is an incredible example of just how life changing 3D printing is.

Another demonstration of how 3D printing can vastly improve the Healthcare Industry is the creation of 3D printed organs. Organovo has predicted that within a decade it will be possible to print solid organs such as heart and kidneys (Mesko, 2014). If this prediction is correct, then this will see massive reductions to transplant lists. It is cited that 3D printed organs will bring a ‘promising field of research, offering hope for bridging the gap between organ shortage and transplantation needs’ (Ozbolat and Yu, 2013:691). Today in just United Kingdom alone, there are 6,870 people waiting for a transplant (NHS, 2014). This is a substantial amount of people. However, if a 3D printer is able to print organs in the future, this will not only reduce the waiting list in the United Kingdom, but will improve the Healthcare Industry worldwide. Contrary to this, 3D printing also has its critics and some would argue that the cost of such an innovation would rule out any hope of it being available to everybody that needed it. However, the fact that 3D printing has and will continue to save lives means that 3D printing offers invaluable benefits.

The Construction Industry:

Another industry that will see a positive change is the Construction field. 3D printing has the potential to carry out construction work globally. This is a ground-breaking trend that offers a more cost effective and efficient method. A Chinese company called WinSun, have been constructing houses from a giant 3D printer since February 2014.

They are able to build up to ten houses within a day, and the price of a house cost as little as £2,970 to produce (The Guardian, 2014).

An average price to construct a single family house costs around £197,254 (Fixr, 2015) and as proven by the 2012 Survey of Construction it takes around seven months to build (Siniavskaia, 2013). Therefore, this is a hugely beneficial invention for construction businesses, as they are able to produce houses at a much faster and cheaper rate than they ever thought possible. This could also mean that because the cost of construction will become cheaper, so will the prices of houses and this will increase property buying.

3D printed house.jpg
Fig 2. (Griffiths, 2014)

WinSun also offer customers the opportunity to customise their houses to match their needs, this adds value to the construction field because customers find house hunting frustrating. This will also result in a higher number of sales and will increase the demand for the construction industry as a whole.

For further information about WinSun’s 3D printed houses, please visit the case study available at:

The implications of 3D printing

3D printing brings a number of fantastic opportunities for businesses, but it also causes many disruptions. These will be discussed in the following sections.

Copyrights and people designing their own products:

The emergence of 3D printing has already caused copyright issues, and this is just the beginning. 3D printing allows products to be replicated easier than before, making it a major threat to businesses. People only need to have a computer-aided design, a 3D printer and printing materials to duplicate products from the comfort of their own homes (Raconteur, 2014). This is an area that is likely to increase in exploitation.

Fig 3. (Clker, 2009)

This could potentially discourage people from purchasing genuine products and promote some to produce their own illegal replicates of branded products, and this will damage business sales. 3D printing could destroy business’ own products in a similar way to how the internet has damaged the music industry. There is little control over illegal music downloads and this could be the same for the printing of business’ goods. The 3D printer will be accessible for everyone, much like the internet, therefore there will be a very high risk of copyright issues.

Doherty suggests that, ‘this new technology puts the DIY community at risk of running afoul of patent law’ (2012:354). This quotation demonstrates that 3D printing will disrupt business products and decrease the protection of copyright. Doherty continues, ‘DIYers have never had to worry much about infringing upon patents: even if their projects did happen to infringe, their work was individualized and difficult to replicate’ (2012:354). Therefore, the emergence of this new technology will threaten businesses in a way that they have never been threatened before.

People may decide to produce their own products from their home that are similar to existing authentic products, however this will not be classified as copyright because it isn’t an exact replica. This encourages people not to spend in store. This makes shopping both cheaper and more convenient for customers. If this is the case then this would be extremely harmful for businesses. One 3D printer even has the ability to print food (Zoran and Coelho, 2011). People may no longer feel the need to spend unnecessary amounts of money at restaurants or on takeaways because they are able to design their own meals without the need for cooking. This is another disruption to the business world.

The following video shows how people can easily use a 3D printer to deliver any products they want instantly and cost effectively.

This video emphasises on how incredible 3D printing is as it gives people the opportunity to customise. However has anyone stopped to consider the negative effects this could have? There are already companies that offer sharing designs for 3D printing to consumers, for example Thingiverse and Shapeways. These companies encourage people to share designs and produce products with very little cost or sometimes cost-free.

Furthermore, this will cause a massive disruption to the business world and will lead to dramatic downfalls in business sales. This invention could potentially destroy businesses if they lose out on too much custom, small businesses are particularly at great risk.

Traditional Manufacturing:

3D printing will replace traditional manufacturing. It is said that, ‘today we are entering an era many believe will be as disruptive to the manufacturing sector as the Industrial Revolution was’ (Petrick and Simpson, 2013:12). This illustrates just how massively 3D printing will change manufacturing. It will completely transform the industry, this is also expressed by Gilpin, ‘the printers will completely disrupt traditional manufacturing in many industries’ (2014).

Hlavin argues that 3D printing can help companies improve manufacturing efficiency and decrease cost (2014:34). This demonstrates that 3D printing can bring benefits to the manufacturing industry, however this does come at a heavy cost. 3D printing will replace the current method of how manufactures produce products and will also jeopardise employment as technology will prevent the need for people. Miller and Marsh ask, ‘where are the jobs? Will machines replace us?’ (2014:39). This is exactly what 3D printing will do to the manufacturing industry, by replacing the traditional method of manufacturing, they are replacing the need for humanity. Replacing humanity will then result in an increase to the unemployment rate, and this is massive threat to the business world as people will not have the money to spend on goods.
Chinese manufacturing.jpg
Fig 3. (Chang, 2012)

China is the largest manufacturing country in the world and this is an industry that the Chinese heavily rely on. It is predicted that 3D printing will destroy this, as identified in the following quotation, ‘China will have to give up on being the mass-manufacturing powerhouse of the world’ (D’Aveni, 2013). By destroying the Chinese traditional manufacturing industry this will majorly disrupt the Chinese economy.

For further information on how manufacturing is changing, please visit the.Makers- The New Industrial Revolution wiki page.


In conclusion, through studying the impact of 3D printing on the business world, it is clear that 3D printing has many advantages and disadvantages.

It is clear that 3D printing will be a popular innovation that will affect a number of different industries. The Healthcare Industry is an example of how 3D printing can be used to great effect. 3D printing will save lives and this makes its inclusion vital to the Healthcare Industry. However, 3D printing will abolish the traditional way of doing things and this is a major concern, particularly considering the loss of jobs its introduction could bring. The capability of people producing their own products and the risks of copyright issues, make 3D printing a major threat to businesses.

Overall, it is difficult to predict whether this piece of technology will have an overall positive or a negative effect. However, through studying this topic, it is clear that the implications of such an incredible innovation need to be carefully considered before 3D printing is fully incorporated into the business world.


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