A plastic wrench designed by Case Western Reserve University student C.J. Valle and created by a 3D printer.
CREDIT: Case Western Reserve University | Kristina Collins

Why 3D Printing Matters for ‘Made in USA’

Jeremy Hsu, Tech News Daily Senior Writer
Date: 05 December 2012 Time: 12:38 PM ET

A rise in 3D printing technology won’t mean a “Star Trek” replicator in every home to make whatever Americans desire. But the White House has bet big on the idea that 3D printing can revolutionize U.S. manufacturing from within the heart of the Midwest’s “Rust Belt” once known for its shuttered steel mills.

President Barack Obama’s proposed $1 billion bet on a manufacturing innovation network hinges upon places such as Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, where the whirring sounds of 3D printers and laser cutters filled the engineering department’s invention center on a late Friday afternoon. The university is one of many partners in the federally funded National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) — a $30 million pilot institute aimed at boosting 3D printing’s use in U.S. manufacturing.

“The real value of 3D printing is to do something that’s either not possible or not cost-effective to do with existing technology,” said James McGuffin-Cawley, chairman of materials science & engineering at Case Western Reserve University and a member of the NAMII executive board.

3D printing represents the latest version of what industry experts call “additive manufacturing” — a way to turn practically any computer designs into real objects by building them up layer-by-layer using plastics, metals or other materials. The technology could end up affecting every major industry — aerospace, defense, medicine, transportation, food, fashion — and have an even bigger impact on U.S. manufacturing than the robot revolution.

Read more: Why 3D Printing Matters for 'Made in USA' | Additive Manufacturing Rust Belt | LiveScience.

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