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Will 3D Printing Touch Your Life?

 Jason B. Jones








 Jason B. Jones, PhD
2016 Chair, SME Additive Manufacturing Community
SME Member Since 2012

Additive manufacturing, popularly known as “3D printing,” has captured the mainstream media spotlight like few if any manufacturing techniques in recent decades. Hopefully you have heard something about it; or perhaps you find continual reference to this next “industrial revolution” tiresome, particularly if you haven’t seen any impact to you or your business yet. As the media hype wave washes past additive manufacturing, the remaining question for many is: “will this technology make a difference to my life?”

If you use a hearing aid…or if you have opted for clear braces…chances are that it already has. If you need or will need a hip implant, chances are that it soon will. Did you know that most hearing aid shells in the US and Europe are now 3D printed? Are you aware of clear alternatives to metal braces made from 3D-printed molds customized for each patient? Have you heard about hip implants that achieve a superior joint to the bone thanks to special 3D-printed textures (trabecular lattices added to acetabular cups), which are on their way to becoming mainstream? How about customized running shoes, earphones, wearables, printed clothing…all of these topics are in the early stages of commercialization enabled by additive technologies. For these and a myriad of additional applications, the question is not whether 3D printing will touch you or a loved one; the question is simply a matter of time.

Many are surprised when they learn that 3D printing systems were first launched commercially in the mid-late 1980s and are well established as enabling technology for a variety of industrial applications from aerospace parts to jewelry. Industrial adoption of metal 3D printing began more than a decade ago, with accelerated adoption during the last five years. The capability of producing parts in more durable materials (such as metal, ceramics and composites) has significantly expanded applications into manufacturing of durable end-use parts, hence the formal adoption of the term “additive manufacturing” in 2009 by ASTM.Advisors for SME’s Additive Manufacturing Community were recently on hand at SME Headquarters for a strategy meeting. Pictured from left to right: Jeff DeGrange, Colleen Wivell, Jung Lowe, Vesna Cota, Jason Jones and Denis Cormier.

Since 1993, SME has been home to the largest professional 3D printing community worldwide. SME’s Additive Manufacturing Community have made a tremendous impact on the field since then, including most notably the foundational work that culminated in broad-based standards development initiated as the Committee F42 on Additive Manufacturing Technologies.

If 3D printing has not yet touched your life, I recommend that you experience it now. Membership with SME gives you access to a treasure trove of resources collected by its Additive Manufacturing Community to help get you started including a library of dozens of webinars from the fundamentals to customized medical implants and many industrial implementations. These and other resources are accessible through

Or, try printing something yourself! The perfect way to start is with a free, hands-on 3D printing tutorial in the “3D Playground” at the upcoming RAPID event May 17-19 in Orlando, FL. Visit to register.

If you aren’t able to travel to Florida, why not create a 3D design and send it off to be printed by a service bureau? If you don’t feel you have the money or skills, did you know that you can create a 3D model using free online software design apps (try then send your model (usually saved as an STL file) off to be printed and mailed to your home for as little as $20?

It has never been easier to get started with 3D printing, so why wait? After all, what good is the promise of 3D printing until it becomes personal? In due course, 3D printing will do more than simply touch your life or the life of a loved one, one day it may even save it.


2016 SME Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineers Named

SME recently recognized 16 Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineers from industry and academia for their career achievements. Selected through an extensive review process conducted for SME by executives from across industry and academia, this recognition is based on a candidate’s research and development efforts in emerging manufacturing applications, published works, design ingenuity, entrepreneurship and leadership. All honorees are 35 or younger.

2016 Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineers:

  • David Blondheim, Jr., PE, Mercury Marine,Fond du Lac, WI;
  • Yujie Chen, PhD, Caterpillar, Inc., Peoria, IL;
  • Michael Cullinan, PhD, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX;
  • Emmanuel De Moor, PhD, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO;
  • Andy Henderson, PhD, GE Power, Greenville, SC;
  • David Hoelzle, PhD, University of Notre Dame,Notre Dame, IN;
  • Liangbing Hu, PhD, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, MD;
  • Xiaoning Jin, PhD, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI;
  • Jaydeep Karandikar, PhD, GE Global Research Center, Niskayuna, NY;
  • Chinedum Okwudire, PhD, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI;
  • Srikanth Pilla, PhD, Clemson University, Clemson, SC;
  • Christian Rath, Caterpillar, Inc., Peoria, IL;
  • Christopher Saldana, PhD, Georgia Tech, Atlanta;
  • Rohan Shirwaiker, PhD, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC;
  • Sameh Tawfick, PhD, University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign, Urbana, IL; and
  • Hao Wu, PhD, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China.

Nominations are accepted annually on or before Aug. 1. Visit to learn more about the award and the nominating process.

This article was first published in the May 2016 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. Read “Will 3D Printing Touch Your Life?” as a PDF.

Published Date : 5/1/2016

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