Rumors of 3D-printing hype are greatly exaggerated


Inevitably, when the subject of 3D printing is broached in a business-to-business setting, the question of hype must be raised. That task fell to Zach Simkin at a conference track devoted to 3D printing at the MD&M East/PLASTEC East events in New York City last week. President of Senvol (New York, NY), a consultancy that compiles 3D printing analytics for businesses, Simkin moderated a panel of experts in the additive manufacturing/3D printing space, promising to "cut through the hype and find what is mechanically and economically viable." My takeaway? 3D printing is reshaping the manufacturing landscape, one layer at a time. No hype about it.

Leading into this session, keynote speaker Katie Weimer, Vice President, Medical Devices, at 3D Systems (Rock Hill, SC), spoke of the "digital thread of information starting with CT scans" and ending with 3D-printed patient-specific medical devices. There should be no debate about the revolutionary thrust of 3D printing in the medical arena, specifically in orthopedics and the fabrication of patient-specific pre-operative models. PlasticsToday has reported extensively on the use of 3D printing to fabricate prosthetic devices, notably for children, at a fraction of the cost of conventional devices. E-nable, which got a shout out from Weimer, has done admirable work in this regard, connecting engineers and the maker community with children who are missing limbs. Check out this video of a 7-year-old boy being gifted with a Star Wars–inspired prosthetic arm for one example.

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