2016 in 3D Printing: Your Favorite Stories from the Last Year


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2016 has been — let’s say a mixed bag; while this year saw the loss of beloved celebrities, a heated US election, Brexit, Zika, an escalating crisis in Syria, and many other globally divisive happenings, it was also a year of unprecedented development technologically. We’ll stay away from another celebrity tribute or political debate and focus on what’s really important here — this year in 3D printing. Keeping our eyes toward the tech sector, it’s easy to see that 2016 offered some big news in each of its 12 months. This year was also one of great growth for us here at 3DPrint.com, as we saw an increase in readership and have been making every effort to connect more with our community, engaging you through webinars, giveaways, our forum, social media, and more.

We’d like to keep the focus on you, so as this year winds down, let’s take a look at some of what caught your attention in technology throughout this year: here’s a look at 16 of your top stories from 2016! These are our most heavily trafficked articles published over the last 12 months. Thank you for reading, and we hope to continue putting out the content you most want to see as we get into 2017!

The Free Library of 3D Printable Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures is Now Complete!

All of the NPCs from the Monster Manual Appendix B.

All of the NPCs from the Monster Manual Appendix B.

Because it’s not a party until you can 3D print your own (adventuring) party, the love for Dungeons & Dragons is here to stay. A popular application for 3D printing among geeks and hobbyists, creating minis for tabletop role playing games has really taken off. 3D designer, US Army vet, and D&D player Miguel Zavala was hard at work creating every monster seen in the D&D Monster Manual — and in May of this year he finished the collection, almost 300 models strong. This was our most heavily trafficked and shared article of 2016, highlighting that sometimes miniatures are big news — and if we can’t use technology for fun, what’s the good in it, right? This D&D library struck a chord in all of our geeky little hearts this year.

Poland’s 3D Printing Scene Was Built Upon a Huge Deal That Never Happened

mmh m200When Eastern Europe jumped onto the international 3D printing radar, it was largely because of a young company that hit it big. Poland’s Zortrax reported heavily on a major deal, as in early 2014 they were proud to announce that Dell had ordered 5,000 of their desktop 3D printers. While the M200 is a solid machine, news of this deal was what really set Poland on its way to prominence, seeing increased market investment and growth. The numbers, though, didn’t add up to reflect the massive sale — and, as we were the first to report, it turned out the deal had never gone through. Zortrax had already removed mention of Dell from its promotional materials, but never noted publicly that the sale didn’t come to fruition. The company later issued a statement on the matter that reads, in part:

“Due to confidentiality of the agreement, we are not able to reveal additional details of the contract, other than to say that it could not be completed on mutually acceptable terms and conditions by both parties.

We want to clearly communicate that information related to this opportunity was, and has been clearly communicated to prospective investors. As the article noted, Zortrax discontinued communication efforts regarding the potential contract in our marketing communications, addresses to the market, and conversations with investors due to its unsuccessful conclusion.

We would like to note that financial numbers quoted in the article do clearly indicate the usage of real numbers. Potential profits from unrealized contracts are not reported and were not formally included for the basis of establishing the valuation of the company.”

2016 3D Scanner Buying Guide

3dp_3dscan_buying_guide_bannerThe decision to invest in a 3D scanner is a big one, and we’re here to help. Our 2016 guide to 3D scanners explores various options available to those interested in getting their 3D scan on, ranging from software to lower-cost DIY possibilities to handheld, desktop turntable style, and high-end professional 3D scanners. Looking to scan to perfection (or to hey-that’s-good-enough)? This guide has proven popular for readers checking out the market.

Gigi the Macaw is the Proud Recipient of the World’s First 3D Printed Titanium Beak

gigi3In February, we saw the fantastic case of Gigi, a Macaw with a deformed beak. Gigi fortunately received excellent care from experienced veterinary experts who had previously 3D printed a shell for a tortoise and a beak for a toucan in need. The veterinary team, from the Animal Care Center Ipiranga in São Paulo, created a titanium beak for Gigi, as a plastic beak wouldn’t have been durable enough for the crack-and-smash eating habits of a Macaw. The beak, created via 3D modeling and then 3D printed in titanium by specialists at the Renato Archer Technology and Information Center (CTI), brought Gigi a new lease on life.

GE Announces $1.4 Billion Investment: Acquisition of Arcam AB and SLM Solutions

ge bannerWhile a few months on, we know that ultimately the deal didn’t go through quite as planned, GE’s September announcement of a $1.4 billion investment into additive manufacturing made some major waves across the industry. The reshaped deal, in which GE acquired controlling shares in Arcam and Concept Laser, went through in mid-December, as GE acquired a 75% stake in Concept laser and 76.15% of Arcam shares. GE has been coming with gusto to the fore of goings on in the AM industry, and we’ll be watching them very closely as we move into 2017 and GE Additive comes to center stage.

When eBay Sellers Try to Defend Their Illegal Sale of 3D Models from Thingiverse, Comedy Ensues

Thingiverse user Loubie created this Sad Face to raise awareness for the eBay scandal

Thingiverse user Loubie created this Sad Face to raise awareness for the eBay scandal

Few things rally communities together quite like outrage. Back in February, we saw what happened to some eBay sellers who nabbed some 3D models from Thingiverse and sell them for a profit — and let’s just say it wasn’t pretty, and I’d like to never be in those guys’ shoes (and not just because of their questionable morals). The eBay sellers, who went by just3dprint, posted an, ahem, verbose argument about why they were doing what they were doing, but their position of basically “we’re doing this because we can, suckers” shockingly didn’t go over too well among designers, makers, and IP experts. While makers had a sad face for a while, eventually they turned it upside down as Thingiverse users won the day.

Multi-Color, Multi-Material Unprecedented Efficiency: Stratasys’ J750 Reinvents 3D Printing

test prints 7April 2016 introduced us to Stratasys’ J750 3D printer, which can create complex designs in an unprecedented six materials and 360,000 colors. I had the opportunity to see the J750 at its media unveiling at the OtterBox HQ in Fort Collins, Colorado, and watch it 3D print up some impressive phone cases. This 3D printer offers potential for prototyping, art, and more, and the rest of 2016 only saw applications and demand for this multi-material unit expand.

Dubai Inaugurates First 3D Printed Office Building, Constructed in 17 Days

3D-officeThis long-awaited construction was finally unveiled in May, as Dubai’s 3D printed office was completed. 3D printed in 17 days on a 3D printer measuring 20 x 120 x 40 feet, the office’s exterior, detailing, and structural components were completely fabricated via AM technology. Dubai has been in our headlines often in 2016, and as the city-state continues to devote resources to 3D printing and economic growth, we can only expect to see the UAE continue to pop up on our tech maps.

HP’s Multi Jet Fusion 3D Printer Unveiled

hp systemAnother month, another huge 3D printer introduction — May brought us official word of HP’s highly anticipated Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing system. We got a good look at its reveal at HP’s Barcelona facility ahead of the official unveiling at RAPID a short time later, and HP has kept in touch with 3DPrint.com to ensure that we follow the latest as this new system comes ever closer to its full market release. Its introduction as a full system complete with a finishing station and trolley caught a lot of our readers’ attention as we all wait to see just what this system can do once it reaches customers.

Dude, Awesome Lack Hack: Maker in the UK Designs Large Format 3D Printer with IKEA Table

feature-4In addition to big-name companies showcasing the latest and greatest in technology, our community is also drawn to other types of new 3D printers, including those that can be made at home. While the jury is still out on whether it’s more or less tricky to assemble an IKEA table that incorporates a full, large-format 3D printer as opposed to any other piece of IKEA furniture, we have seen that the verdict is in about interest in making 3D printers. This original design can be made in whole for under $400 (including the cost of the table!) and holds some great promise for further innovation.

Twin Babies No Longer Joined at the Brain Thanks to 3D Technology

4309813D printing can help in almost any setting, and the operating room has proven to be a major mainstay for the technology lately. Thanks to healthcare technology from 3D Systems, in October of this year 13-month-old conjoined twins Anias and Jadon McDonald were separated in four major surgical procedures. 3D printed models of the boys’ full heads and their skulls with internal anatomy, as well as a 3D printed cutting guide, assisted surgeons in the operating room. The complicated case was well-documented, and both boys finally went home earlier this month — ready to sleep for the first time in separate beds.

Physicists Create 3D Printable Map of the Oldest Light in the Universe

cmbMaps are a staple of humanity, and we’ve seen 3D printed maps displaying all sorts of places here on Earth — but what about 3D printing a map of the entire universe? In October, we saw researchers from Imperial London College take on this out-of-this-world challenge, creating a 3D printable cosmic microwave background (CMB) — that prominent glow (in the microwave range) from the universe mapping out the oldest light — imprinted just about 380,000 years into its 13.8 billion years of existence.

Ahem! Eyes Up Here, Please: A Focus on SexyCyborg & Her 3D Printing Journey

UntitledIn addition to projects, individual makers often draw a lot of attention, and one famed Chinese maker has caught our eye for all the right reasons. Naomi Wu, who goes by SexyCyborg online, is behind some of the most fun and interesting projects we’ve seen lately. While the projects themselves may not be what you notice first when she posts a new build, they’re certainly what will get you to stay. Wu is a sassy and intelligent maker in touch with the realities of the communities where she works — and she certainly has all the right stuff to back it up.

TSA Discovers 3D Printed Gun in Carry-On Luggage at Reno Airport

RNOI was honestly surprised how far down the traffic stats it took to come across a piece about 3D printed guns; love them or hate them, no one is ignoring them. The story that caught the most eyes this year featured a gun found in some carry-on luggage at Reno’s airport. That week in August, the 3D printed piece was one of 68 firearms the TSA found on travellers, and it seems this one caused the least worry, as the passenger simply surrendered his plastic pistol and boarded his flight without further incident.

Ready to Get Naked? 3D Scanning Smart Scale & Mirror Allows You to See The Truth

3330EBE400000578-3540762-image-a-74_1460670122616Sometimes all you need for your health is some good old fashioned nudity and inspection — at least that’s what The Naked Truth suggests, as the company’s fitness tracker can catch every detail about your body as you track fitness goals. Tracking shape, measurements, body fat percentage, and weight in a 20-second 3D scan on a turntable, The Naked Truth keeps you up to date about the latest goings-on with your body in one high-tech selfie.

ORNL and Boeing Earn Guinness Book of World Records Title for Largest Solid 3D Printed Part

Guinness Book Record

Guinness Book Record

Showing that we all still love the big news, our final story that drew in the reading crowds featured a record-breaking 3D print job. The largest solid 3D printed object was officially named by the Guinness Book of World Records in August, as Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Boeing created a massive trim tool, made in carbon fiber and ABS thermoplastic composite materials. 3D printed in 30 hours, the part measures 17.5 x 5.5 x 1.5 feet — about the length of a large SUV. Weighing in at 1,650 pounds, the solid piece was created in ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility using the Big Area Additive Manufacturing Machine (BAAM), an extremely large-scale 3D printing system developed by ORNL and Cincinnati Inc.

From 3D printed D&D minis to a 3D printed large object, and with all these stories in between, no one can argue that 2016 was uneventful in 3D printing. We’d be hard-pressed to pick top stories from the thousands of articles we published over the last calendar year (though we’ve tried), so we’re glad to see that through reading you helped to narrow down selections this year.

3DPrint.com has had a busy year, going around the world to cover 3D printing, and working to keep up with all the new 3D printer introductions in 2016 — along with news covering business, software, materials, and more in 3D technologies. As we kick off 2017, we can only say: hold on! It’s looking to be another whirlwind year full of technological advances and thrilling happenings. We’ll be starting the new year off (after celebrating appropriately, of course) running, as we cover CES 2017 from the ground next week in Las Vegas — and we’re seeing no signs of slowing down.

Thank you for a great year! We love to stay in touch — send in an email, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, join the conversation at 3DPrintBoard.com — and we’re looking forward to another year of bringing you the best news in 3D technologies. From our whole team: HAPPY NEW YEAR! Discuss in the Top Stories of 2016 forum at 3DPB.com.

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