The Third Age of Manufacturing

The Bukobot Reprap, a low-cost 3D printer

The elegance of 3D printing is leading to an industrial and economic shift.

by Benjamin Hayward

From left to right, the printer’s moving head slowly completes an oval-shaped lattice of connective tissue. The tray lowers less than a tenth of a millimeter, and the printer continues, adding the second layer to what will eventually become a ready-to-transplant human heart printed from tissue grown from the recipient’s own stem cells.

Printing organ transplants on demand is currently only the dream of San Diego based Oraganova’s CEO Keith Murphy, but his company is already printing human analog cell samples using the technology of three-dimensional (3D) printing. He isn’t the only one dreaming big for the future applications of 3D printing however — a future which analysts say isn’t far off.

This new method of manufacturing is catching on and already has serious implications in today’s society. In April, Time magazine listed 3D printing as one of the ten fastest-growing industries in the U.S. with a predicted annual growth rate of 14 percent through 2017. This method of production is already proving more efficient than traditional ones, and it’s not only leading to new innovations like the customized organ transplants Organova is hoping for, but to…

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