3D Printing Goes Mainstream as Brands Embrace Maker Movement


It hasn’t been too long that 3D printing has been part of the consumer marketplace, but the new technology is providing a whole new revenue stream for plenty of brands beyond MakerBot, which has helped popularize the process.

It’s the subject of a new documentary produced by Netflix, Print the Legendwhich premiered at SXSW, where Mondelez sparked line-ups with 3D-printed Oreo cookies.

Consumers will see more and more applications in the coming months, joining 3D printing innovations by brands tapping into the maker movement including:

• UPS has been testing 3D printing in six locations and is now expanding that to nearly a hundred stores across the US.[more]

• GE, always eager to be an innovator, has partnered with Stratasys 3D to to build and commercialize household appliances and accessories put forth “an open call to product designers [to] crowdsource a new commercial household appliance or accessory” that will be 3D printed, PSFK reports. The prototyping is being led by GE affiliate FirstBuild, with the goal of creating “hundreds of something, not hundreds of thousands of things,” said GE spokesperson Kim Freeman. “If it’s something that really takes off, it could be moved up to mass production at GE’s factories.”

• Microsoft is promoting that 3D Builder R5 app can be installed for free from the Windows Store:

• New York’s Normal, a startup by former Quirky exec Nikki Kaufman that has raised more than $5 million from investors, 3D-prints headphones that fit consumers ears perfectly.

• 3D printing is providing new opportunities for schools. Florida Southern College is using the technology to help restore the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Annie Pfeiffer Chapel, which is part of the largest collection of Wright-designed buildings in one location. And Australia is offering “customized lessons for 3D printing in schools” and shows teachers how to use them in the classroom. “Education is a good market for 3D printing, and we did a pilot program with Figtree High School to test the waters and it seemed to really excite people,” Modfab trainer Ben Roberts told ABC Australia.

• Even food is getting 3D-printed. A group of design students at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati have developed the Sky Kitchen, a lab designed for “3D printing food on airlines, to provide passengers with a much larger, and fresher selection of delectable meals,” according to 3Dprint.com.

• In China, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Landscape and Forestry is using 3D printing to “coordinate elaborate flower displays on Tiananmen Square for National Day celebrations for the first time,” ECNS.cn reports. The event will take place Oct. 1. China seems to be at the forefront of the 3D printing movement. It was only last month that doctors there rebuilt a major portion of a man’s skull. Another medical miracle was taken care of there when doctors performing spinal surgery printed out a piece of vertebrae. In addition, ten full-size houses have been printed in one day.

• The gun issue is a difficult one. In May, a Japanese man was arrested for possessing five 3D-printed guns; now, the Free Open Source Software 7 Computer Aided Design group have created another gun that can be 3D printed.

• And 3D printing isn’t just of this Earth, either. The SpaceX Dragon capsule linked with the International Space Station this week, delivering a 3D printer (along with a slew of other things). The printer has been developed in the past few years for “experimental purpose with an eye to one day printing parts for the station on-demand,” according to Forbes.

• Follow us: @brandchannel on Twitter and brandchannel on Facebook. Connect with Mark on Twitter: @markjmill