3D printing and its effect on global economy
3D printing is the process of creating three dimensional
(3D) objects from digital files. It is also sometimes referred to as additive
manufacturing. Basically, objects are modeled on a 3D modeling software such as
Maya, 3ds Max etc., and then, a material is joined layer by layer in an
additive manner and solidified to form the 3D model.
3D printing can be traced back to the 1980s, specifically
1986. It was then called rapid prototyping because it was considered a fast and
cost-effective way of creating prototype models for developing products in
The first commercially available 3D printer was released in
2009, and in 2012 alternative 3D printing processes were introduced into the
Effects on the economy
3D printing is unique in the sense that it reduces
complexity. Parts and components,
assembly steps, and costs can all be significantly reduced.
3D printing has the potential to create new jobs and
industries both in the developed and developing worlds. However, the economic
benefits of both worlds may vary because they have different economic needs.
This effect can already be seen in the 3D modeling industry
where more people are going to 3D object modeling to cater for the demand of
35% of engineering jobs demand some form of skills in 3D
printing which rely heavily on 3D designers.
it comes therefore as no surprise that 3D design jobs have
been accelerating rapidly over the years.
3D printing will not be possible without CAD experts, which
is why the rise CAD designer demand is directly proportional to the rise in the
3D printing industry.
The benefits to the developing worlds are double-faced, in
that, on the positive side manufacturing cost through recycled and other local
materials may be lowered drastically, however, the loss of manufacturing jobs
may hit the affected parts of the world hard and may take time to recover.
The cost-effectiveness of 3D printing is also another
economy booster. The more easily it is to acquire say a new cell phone cover,
the easier it is for more people to purchase and that means more market for the
manufacturer and ultimately a boost in the economy.
An example of cost-effectiveness in a manufacturing sense
would be a situation where some amount of say aluminum is needed to build the
part of an engine.
Usually, about 70% of the required amount of material is
really used. The surplus is melted and stored for later reuse.
3D printing with its additive manufacturing processes makes
it possible to use the precise amount of required materials for an operation
and helps avoid the additional cost involved in melting surplus materials in
our aluminum example.
This saves the manufacturing company money which may be
incorporated into the production.
A practical example would be Boeing, the airplane
manufacturing company. According to Boeing, the introduction of 3D printing
into their manufacturing pipeline will save the company about $3 million on
every Jet they produce.
The Ford Motor
Company says it now uses 3D printing to produce and assemble prototypes. Which
are faster to produce and usually ready for testing in a few weeks and costs a
few thousand dollars instead of hundreds of thousands.