Review–A primer on 3D Printing: The Next Technology Gold Rush

3d Printing book cover

What merges borg technology, Kickstarter campaigns, and Maker Faires, bots, optical technologies, digital scanning and photography, gaming, cosplay, lasers and Tony Stark military applications?  What technology is bringing up age-old questions of open source vs proprietary systems, of outsourcing and economics?  We at have discussed 3D printing innovations multiple times, including efforts to create cybernetic parts via these modern printing machines.  The Obama Administration recently put $30 million into a research institute on 3D printing and NASA recently funded its own project.  The future is now, and in Christopher D. Winnan’s new primer on 3D printing, 3D Printing: The Next Technology Gold Rush – Future Factories and How to Capitalize on Distributed Manufacturing, Winnan not only offers the first comprehensive volume on 3D printing technology, he offers business innovators ways to take the new technologies and begin to earn profits sufficient to propel the industry forward.

Winnan’s book offers a college course-level text in 3D printing, giving an overview for the novice, while including a detailed history that would appeal to any 3D printing hobbyist or business person looking for a reference to become familiar with the field.  His 286-page work is easy to understand, asking both basic and advanced questions concerning the possible uses of the technology, and its interplay with materials science and other types of engineering study.   He provides an overview of modern technologies, current product on the market, photos of 3D printing innovations, and a history of the technology with analogies to the quick developments and pratfalls of other historic, fast-moving technologies.

The work of Samuel Bernier upcycled products
The work of Samuel Bernier–“upcycled” products.

Winnan includes a great section on future possibilities of using 3D printing with toy miniatures, cosplay, action figures, the 3D photobooth, doll houses, and creating special effects props for motion pictures.  Golf tees, buttons, virtually any product is a prospective target for the 3D printing entrepreneurial business.  Implications for printing prosthetic body parts for endangered species victims of tusk removal and similar uses are particularly intriguing, as well as “upcycling”–the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of a better quality or a higher environmental value.  Winnan also devotes much material to using developments in China and other Asian markets as sources for ideas for the rest of the world.

Actual eagle whose damaged beak was repaired using 3D printing
Actual eagle whose damaged beak was repaired using 3D printing.

Those new to 3d printing will be surprised at how much has been done and how many resources are available to experts and novices alike.  The book includes many citations, cross-references and links to other works to allow readers to pursue even more information about the technology.  Winnan also includes an in-depth discussion of global issues implicated by 3D printing, and in doing so he sets the framework for the questions countries should be asking as they develop laws allowing the promotion of large-scale 3D printing opportunities.

Dodecahedron lamp made by Bathsheba Grossman
Dodecahedron lamp made by Bathsheba Grossman.

The greatest takeaway from Winnan is that whereas the technology and scope of ideas for 3D printing is worldwide and growing, the fact is that businesses, investment, practical applications are not yet focused on 3D printing.  Like dot coms in the 1990s, 3D printing could be the next innovation like PC computing, data transfer, the Internet, and wireless technology.  As Winnan says in his book, “we now have this fantastic technology in our hands, but what are we going to do with it?”

3D Printing: The Next Technology Gold Rush – Future Factories and How to Capitalize on Distributed Manufacturing is available at

C.J. Bunce

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