Nov 15, 2023

How 3D Printing Has Evolved Over the Past 10 Years

3D Printing Shapes the World 

Over the past 10 years, 3D printing has experienced significant advancements, revolutionizing the manufacturing industry. Starting from its humble beginnings in the 1980s, 3D printing has evolved into a technology capable of creating intricate and complex products by printing layer upon layer of material. In the 1990s, further developments allowed for printing metals (like jet engines) alongside plastics, expanding the possibilities even further. 

Fast forward to the 2010s. During the past decade, 3D printing has become more accessible than ever. The cost of printers has been decreasing dramatically. In 1984, the average price of a 3D printer was $300K. In 2021, the average cost is just $400.   With more companies entering the market, this technology has entered the mainstream, finding its place in homes and businesses. And it's not just for personal use or hobbyists; 3d printing has proven its worth during the COVID-19 pandemic, with manufacturers and engineers utilizing it to produce much-needed medical supplies.

The reduced cost and increased quality of the printers translate to LaunchX students (or any entrepreneurial mind)  new opportunities to leverage this game-changing technology while developing their startup or innovating with a company. With 3D printing, they can quickly create prototypes, iterate on their designs, and even produce customized or personalized products for their target market. The possibilities are endless, and the future of 3D printing looks promising. LaunchX students can use this technology to bring their ideas to life, showcase creativity, and solve real-world problems.

  • 3D printing has evolved significantly over the past 10 years, significantly impacting the manufacturing industry.
  • LaunchX students can leverage 3D printing to quickly adapt and iterate their product designs based on customer feedback.
  • 3D printing enables LaunchX students to bring their ideas to life and showcase their creativity and problem-solving skills.
  • LaunchX students can use 3D printing to create unique and innovative products that differentiate their startup or partner company in the market.
  • 3D printing technology can help LaunchX students overcome traditional manufacturing limitations and explore new design possibilities.

Evolution of 3D Printing Technology

The origins of 3D printing

3D printing technology dates back to the 1980s when Hideo Kodama first discovered the concept of printing layers of material to create a 3D object. This technology was eventually patented by Chuck Hull late in the 1980s.  In the 1990s, advancements in materials and processes allowed for the use of metals in addition to plastics. As the 2000s arrived, 3D printing became more accessible as the cost of printers decreased, and more companies entered the market. 

Advancements in materials and processes

The 2010s witnessed a surge in the demand for 3D printers, with the technology finding its way into homes and businesses. During this time, materials and processes continued to advance, enabling the production of more complex and durable objects. Today, 3D printing can be used with various materials, including plastics, metals, ceramics, and even biological materials.

Entry of more companies into the market

With the increasing popularity and affordability of 3D printing, more companies have entered the market, offering a diverse range of printers and services. This influx of competition has further fueled the innovation and development of 3D printing technology, leading to improved printing capabilities and expanded applications. The most striking example is Kickstarter's 2018 101Hero 3D printer, which promised a $49 printer and raised over $434,000 during the fundraising campaign.

3D printing's response to the COVID-19 pandemic

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, 3D printing has played a crucial role in manufacturing essential medical supplies. Manufacturers and engineers have utilized the technology to quickly produce face shields, ventilator components, and other critical items, addressing supply chain disruptions and saving lives.

Promising future of additive manufacturing

Looking ahead, the future of additive manufacturing and 3D printing appears promising. The global market is projected to experience revenue growth of 23.3% from 2023 to 2030 –indicating this technology's continued growth and adoption. LaunchX students can leverage 3D printing to help their startup or partner company in various ways, such as developing prototypes, reducing manufacturing costs, and creating unique and innovative products that differentiate their business in the market.

Benefits of 3D Printing for LaunchX Students

Rapid prototyping and iteration

As a LaunchX student, you can harness the power of 3D printing to develop prototypes and create your Minimum Viable Product (MVP). 3D printing allows for rapid prototyping and iteration, enabling you to quickly test and refine your product designs – saving time by identifying weaknesses and design flaws early in the process.

Customization for the target market

In today's market, customization is vital. Depending on the type of company, it may be necessary to produce small-batch personalized solutions. With 3D printing, you can create made-to-order products that cater to your target market's needs and preferences. This level of customization can help you stand out from the competition and build a loyal customer base.

Reduction in manufacturing costs and lead times

For companies designing more complex products, utilizing 3D printing can significantly reduce manufacturing costs and lead times. Instead of outsourcing the production of parts, you can produce them in-house using 3D printers. This process cuts manufacturing expenses and eliminates the need to wait for external suppliers, allowing you to bring your products to market faster.

Partnerships with service providers

LaunchX students can explore partnerships with 3D printing service providers to access advanced printing technologies and materials. These partnerships can provide access to specialized printers and materials outside your budget or expertise. Collaborating with service providers can help you achieve higher-quality prints and expand your design possibilities.

Quick adaptation to customer feedback

One of the key advantages of 3D printing is the ability to quickly adapt and iterate your product designs based on customer feedback. Market validation is a key step in creating a successful solution. The flexibility that quick designs create allows you to make rapid improvements and tailor your products to meet the evolving needs of your customers. By leveraging 3D printing, you can stay ahead of the competition and ensure customer satisfaction.

Differentiation through unique product designs

With 3D printing, you can create unique and innovative product designs that differentiate your startup or partner company. The technology allows you to explore new design possibilities and push the boundaries of traditional manufacturing. By showcasing your creativity and problem-solving skills, you can capture the attention of customers and investors alike.

Showcasing creativity and problem-solving skills

3D printing empowers LaunchX students to bring their ideas to life and showcase their creativity and problem-solving skills. By translating concepts into physical prototypes, you can demonstrate the feasibility of your ideas and attract potential investors. This hands-on approach to entrepreneurship allows you to make a lasting impression and build credibility in the industry.

Prototypes for pitches

When seeking validation for your startup, having a compelling prototype can make all the difference. 3D printing technology enables LaunchX students to produce high-quality prototypes that communicate their vision to panelists. These prototypes provide a tangible representation of your product and can help you secure the financial support needed to bring it to market.

The future of 3D Printing

3D printing has an essential place in the future of manufacturing. From tech giants like Apple to a small shop on Etsy, 3D printers are used worldwide to provide solutions to customers. This revolution that started in the 1980s will continue as this technology develops.

Cheaper and better printers

The price of 3D printers will not fall forever. Like the computer revolution and the mobile phone boom, 3D printers will experience a refining period. More features of professional printers will eventually become democratized among the consumer masses. Printers will continue to gain higher resolution, the materials will substantially advance, and software will improve.

More printers, more users

With less expensive 3D printers going to market, there will be more printers than ever. This isn’t to say that every home will have one. Instead, more hobbyists, entrepreneurs, and artists will utilize the technology – increasing the reach and the skill level globally. In 2016, over 50% of UK primary and secondary schools were using 3D printers at the school. 

New areas of use

99% of all hearing aids were 3D printed. New industries are discovering a competitive edge with 3D printing. You can expect more health-related technologies incorporating 3D printing into their designs. 

Further, completely new uses may appear outlandish at this point. For instance, in 2015, Nike’s COO Eric Sprunk felt 3D-printed sneakers were just around the corner. Though this hasn’t been actualized yet, it isn’t difficult to imagine a day when you download a shoe and print it yourself. 

Using 3D Printers for Your Next Venture

3D printers have already had an incredible 30 years, and the technology is just getting started. Whether you are looking to start your own company or you are looking to solve a problem for an existing company, 3D printers have an incredible capacity to help you find a solution quickly.

3D printers will continue to evolve, get better, and get cheaper. At LaunchX, we will continue to provide access to 3D printers, among other current technologies, in the maker spaces. These spaces allow students with physical products to develop and refine prototypes necessary to bring their new products to market.

Thomas Clapper
Thomas Clapper
Marketing and Brand Manager
Follow us on:

Subscribe to our newsletter