Top 3D Printing Developments of 2021

By on January 1st, 2022 in blog, news


 [Source: Real Simple

Charles R. Goulding and Preeti Sulibhavi review the major 3D print stories of 2021.

The year 2021 pushed us out of our comfort zones and, for many, into new ventures and projects. The 3D printing industry is no exception. Here are our top 12 3D printing developments of 2021.

12. Breaking up is hard to do, and we reported recently on the major business spin-offs at GE and how 3D printing can play a role in the independent companies going forward. Also, included in the break-up list is Johnson & Johnson.

11. The nation is now positioned to take on a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill that is expected to improve various components of our nation’s infrastructure, including roads and bridges, and much more. We covered how Deere and Caterpillar could benefit, all while integrating additive manufacturing.

10. There have been international events that have spurred our nation’s interest and concern. These include the Biden Administration’s strong warning about Hong Kong, Taiwan Tensions and Taiwan reshoring, and Singapore as Asia’s 3D printing capital.

9. Eyewear trends were seen everywhere this year. Whether it was Marcolin, Fitz Frames, or Luxottica, 3D printing is and can be a larger part of this ever-growing trend. Let’s see what the upcoming year has to say about it.

8. The bicycle industry took off during the pandemic, and this demand spilled into 2021. 3D printing assisted in helping supply meet demand. Whether it was the Dallas bike scene or the Portugal bike cluster, 3D printing went along for the ride.

7. Individuals who had an impact in 2021, there were a few. Posthumously, we mention Gideon Gartner and Richard Schultz. These were two individuals that had lasting impacts, that included in the 3D printing industry as well.

6. Footwear was seen everywhere in 2021. And, we had reported about slip-on sneakers, the Allbirds IPO, and Nike Spikes. Far and wide, footwear has been on people’s minds, and the 3D printing industry took notice.

5. There were, of course, residual problems from the Covid-19 pandemic, one huge one was and continues to be the supply chain crisis. There were various supply chain issues across industries throughout 2021. We reported on: construction supply chain constraints, supply chain issues with Levi Strauss, Vietnam and supply chain challenges, Whirlpool’s supply chain crisis, and general supply chain constraints. 3D printing certainly had a role in helping to alleviate the crisis, whether it was fabricating parts and components or aiding in product diversification.

4. 2021 was not all fun and games, but the year did bring our attention to how 3D printing could influence the toy industry. Whether it was the highly popular Squid Game, or CoComelon; or, the custom-designed toy projects, and Toybox fostering 3D printing interest in kids.

3. When there is a crisis, good leadership is critical. We saw this in various industries, including where 3D printing was concerned. Lego leadership had been on our minds, our coverage of 2021’s Global Reputation Leaders and their links to 3D printing, or how Seattle has become a leading site for 3D printing innovation. 

2. The life science industry is highly compatible with 3D printing technologies. We have said this before, but 2021 had a whole host of med-tech mergers that we reported on. For instance, CVS had a major business conversion to minute clinics where we demonstrated 3D printing could be useful. From Boston Scientific, Hillrom Bardy, or a general increase in hospital merger activity, we found how 3D printing could seize the opportunity to further advance biotechnology. 

1. There were several major 3D printing mergers in 2021 that should not go unnoticed. The impact of Desktop Metal’s acquisition of Aidro was substantial. Or, Desktop Metal’s acquisition of EnvisionTEC, and publicly-traded ExOne, which were newsworthy as well. There were other acquisitions as well, where 3D printing could be impactful. For instance, Teledyne’s purchase of FLIR Systems for $8 billion.

In 2021, we saw a record number of 3D printing companies go public. Companies engaged in 3D printing activities and developments are eligible for Federal and some state tax incentives such as the Research and Development (R&D) tax credit.

The Research & Development Tax Credit

The now permanent Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit is available for companies developing new or improved products, processes and/or software.

3D printing can help boost a company’s R&D Tax Credits. Wages for technical employees creating, testing, and revising 3D printed prototypes can be included as a percentage of eligible time spent for the R&D Tax Credit. Similarly, when used as a method of improving a process, time spent integrating 3D printing hardware and software counts as an eligible activity. Lastly, when used for modeling and preproduction, the costs of filaments consumed during the development process may also be recovered.

Whether it is used for creating and testing prototypes or for final production, 3D printing is a great indicator that R&D Credit eligible activities are taking place. Companies implementing this technology at any point should consider taking advantage of R&D Tax Credits.


We leave 2021 with mixed emotions. For some it was a year of some improvement (compared to the quarantining we had to go through in 2020); for others, it was a time for reflection. We see the year that has gone by as one that exemplified much of what 3D printing could do to solve major challenges and critical problems globally. Let’s hope 2022 improves further. Happy New Year! 

By Charles Goulding

Charles Goulding is the Founder and President of R&D Tax Savers, a New York-based firm dedicated to providing clients with quality R&D tax credits available to them. 3D printing carries business implications for companies working in the industry, for which R&D tax credits may be applicable.

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