3-D Printing: Who Holds The Power?

3-D printing is becoming more widespread and used by both large corporations and smaller companies and organizations.

Unsurprisingly, large companies such as Amazon and Walmart are creating ways for their consumers to customize their products with 3-D printing. These companies seem to focus only on selling 3-D printed objects as a novelty.

Other large companies, however, such as Adobe and Autodesk are accommodating the increase in popularity of 3-D printing by developing new 3-D print software that can help users design and engineer their own products. With companies such as these, 3-D print design can be much more accessible professionally.

Companies such as Intel and HP are also creating more accessible hardware such as 3-D printers or computers made especially to scan and create 3-D designs.

However, the people who seem to be using 3-D printing to make new products seem to be small companies. While researching, I found that most innovative creations were made by small startup businesses or educational institutions.

For example, a previous post talked about how researchers from the University of California San Diego used 3-D printing to develop medical microfish that can treat toxins. Several other educational and research institutions all over the world, such as the National Pingtung University in Taiwan have developed 3-D printed prosthetics for animals.

Many of the 3-D printed innovations are still mainly done by small businesses. Some examples of these companies include Open Bionics, which focus on developing, “affordable, and open source 3D printed bionic hands for amputees.” Another company, DigiFabster, creates a way to organize 3-D print manufacturing by managing data in the cloud.

Other small companies rely on crowdfunding in order to start their businesses. Solido3D plans on creating a product named OLO, a small device that allows people to use their smartphones as 3-D printers.

Dully Katzeff, both a designer and a mother, is also using crowdfunding as a way to develop a 3-D printed pill coater. Katzeff decided to create the pill coater as a response to her own child’s reluctance to consume pills.

The overall trend seems to show that large companies are mostly involved in creating the software and hardware that are needed to create new 3-D printed products. The small businesses and startups are the ones using these tools to customize and create products that they, and others in their community that help fund their product, need.

In my opinion, this hierarchy seems like it could be beneficial to both the public and the economy. Large corporations seem to focus on creating 3-D print tools, allowing small businesses to create their own 3-D printed products.

Crowdfunded companies can only start when people believes there is a use for their product, meaning that their products are sure to be useful to the public.

While large corporations and research institutions help to further the development of 3-D printing, entrepreneurs could use the flexible manufacturing tool to create businesses, products, and jobs that could help the economy.


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