A Year in Review: Top Ten Stories in 3D Printing

By on December 30th, 2012 in Ideas


2012 has been an exciting year in the 3D printing world and we’re excited to share with you the top ten stories. 

Staples launching “Staples Easy 3D” in 2013

In partnership with Mcor Technologies, Staples will be offering a new service to their customers enabling them to upload their designs and pick up their model at a Staples Copy Center or have it shipped directly to them. This move by a large company into 3D printing is surely a measure of 3D printing’s success and viability for every day customer use. You can learn more by watching their promotional video

3D Printing Electronics

One of the things missing in 3D printing technology has been electronics. Although developing prototypes, cool artwork, and customizable products have been a great start, introducing electronics would allow 3D printed models to do so much more and it seems that we’ll be seeing it much sooner than previously thought. Britain’s Public Library of Science published a study on scientists at the University of Warwick who were able to print electronic circuits using silver and carbon nanotubes. Using the raw material, Carbomorph, they were able to print a simple but functional computer game controller. Although a few years off, 3D printers could be printing all of our gadgets and gizmos making them even more likely to be in households of the future. 

3D Printing Guns

Probably the most well-known 3D printing story outside of the DIY and hobbyist community was the issue of 3D printed guns. Defense Distributed released to the public plans to print a variety of different plastic guns. With large 3D printing providers like Stratasys repossessing Defense Distributed’s 3D printer after hearing of their plans and Representative Steve Israel (D-NY) calling for a renewal of the 1998 Undetectable Firearms Act, this issue is surely just a preview how 3D printing will affect security and civil rights. 

3D Printing and Museums

Museums like the Lincoln Gallery, Harvard University’s Semitic Museum, and New York’s Metropolitan Museum are all getting involved with 3D printing. Either by reconstructing ancient artifacts, storing digital records of priceless artwork with 3D scanning, or offering the public the opportunity to print their most prized sculptures, these museums are looking ahead while bringing the past to life. Go ahead and print off that million dollar piece of artwork here you’ve always wanted! 

Sculpteo Raises $2.5 Million

The French 3D printing company Sculpteo raised $2.5 million in funding from XAnge Private Equity and other angel investors to expand their 3D print by mail service. Their plans include an increased focus on America, so it should be interesting to see the competition with the American-based 3D print service Shapeways. 

Shapeways Opens a New Office in Queens, New York

One of the most recognizable names in 3D printing, Shapeways, opened a second office in Queens further indicating their success in printing and delivering 3D models. You can check out their new facility through a slide show at Forbes

3D printing and Sex

It was bound to happen sooner or later, but MakerLove is the first on this scene and sells “interesting” 3D printed adult sex toys. Though it’s a niche market that’s buying his merchandise, it’s an early indicator of what other naughty things people may do with 3D printing. 

3D Printing Photo Booth

A great way for the wider world to get to know 3D printing is popping up all around the world in “photo” booths that print the subjects in 3D models. In Japan, Omote 3D set up a booth at the Eye of Gyre exhibition space that would scan the subject for 15 minutes and allows the customer to purchase the model at a price between $264 to $568. Although much slower than a conventional photo booth, we may start to see more of these at fairs, 
weddings, and other celebrations in the near future. 

3D Printing Arteries

Many of us heard about 3D printing human organs last year, but recently scientists have been working on printing veins and arteries. Using a RepRap printer, researchers at University of Pennsylvania and MIT printed a lattice of arteries that could transport nutrients and oxygen. A video explains more detail, but hopefully we’ll see more news in 2013 about the biomedical field exploring the potential of 3D printing. 

Stratasys and Objet Merge

The combining two companies, now Stratasys Ltd., will value at nearly $3 billion, creating a monster-sized 3D company with more diverse capabilities than either company had previously. The rising values of 3D printing companies are a great indication of the growing valuation of the technology and its bright future.



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