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24:40April 18, 2024

The Future of 3D Printing

The Science and Technology Innovation Program at the Wilson Center has explored various aspect of 3D printing in a series of documentary films, reports and events.

The Future of 3D Printing

As interest in 3D printing has hit a fever pitch, the Wilson Center's Science and Technology Innovation Program (STIP) has focused on some lesser-explored aspects of the technology. These efforts include a short series of documentary videos looking at the impact 3D printing could have on medicine, aerospace and other industries and a workshop and report looking into its environmental and human health implications. Links to this work and more can be found on this page.  

Beyond the Desktop

The potential of desktop 3D printing has been covered extensively by the media. But many feel the true impact of this technology will be felt at the industrial level, where companies in different sectors hope to use additive manufacturing to make better products at a lower cost. The technology could soon be used to help make airplanes, automobiles, space stations, medical models and sensors – even organs—while also radically transforming our traditional supply chains. But at what cost? And what has to happen to ensure that this tremendous potential is reached?

In the Beyond the Desktop video series, we speak with people from startups, hospitals, long-established companies, government and academia to understand how additive manufacturing will impact how we make things. From airplanes to space stations, the technology provides complexity at a low cost. But we also seek to move beyond the hype and understand what changes need to happen for this potential to be realized and what unintended consequences we might need to anticipate. There are five episodes on this video series, directed and produced by Aaron Lovell with the help of Joe Filvarof.

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Epiosde 4

The Environmental Impacts of Additive Manufacturing

STIP has also done work looking at the environmental impacts of additive manufacturing. In October 2014, STIP worked with the Center for Manufacturing Innovation at the University of Florida to convene experts from the fields of advanced manufacturing and environmental/health studies to develop a research agenda to better understand the potential risks surrounding additive manufacturing. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the workshop broight many of these experts together for the first time.

The archived website for the workshop can be found here:

The report from the workshop, released in July 2015, can be downloaded here:

Prior to the development of the research agenda, STIP hosted a December 2013 event at the Wilson Center on the environmental implications of additive manufacturing.

STIP also helped with the production of Rober Olson's November/December 2013 cover story in The Environmental Forum, "3D Printing: A Boon or a Bane?"

Is 3D Printing a Game Changer?

In September 2013, David Rejeski, the director of STIP, appeared on the television program Dialogue at the Wilson Center to discuss the potential of 3D printing and digital fabrication. The show also features a visit to the Fab Lab in Washington, D.C. for a hands-on look at the new technology.

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Science and Technology Innovation Program

The Science and Technology Innovation Program (STIP) serves as the bridge between technologists, policymakers, industry, and global stakeholders.  Read more