Washington, D.C. – Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today released the following statement after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report titled, 3D Printing: Opportunities, Challenges, and Policy Implications of Additive Manufacturing. Chairman Smith requested the report in August 2014.

Chairman Smith: “Recent progress in 3-D manufacturing technology illustrates the value of federal basic research investments if we prioritize important areas such as engineering, computer science, chemistry and biology. National Science Foundation (NSF) funded research has paved the way for advanced 3-D manufacturing processes for an extensive and growing field of products. From cutting-edge powdered metals to research using 3-D printed animal tissue, materials research continues to broaden the potential of this technology.  American homes may soon have machines capable of producing their own replacement parts for broken appliances as well as everyday household goods.  Automobile manufacturing and even housing construction may be transformed from mass production to more customized products. Over the next decade, 3-D printing, nanotechnology and advanced materials research have the potential to transform manufacturing and improve American lives.”

Since 1986 when it first began funding 3-D manufacturing, NSF has expended more than $200 million on additive manufacturing research and related activities. Now, several other federal agencies are involved, including NASA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Department of Energy. Within DOD, several research organizations are involved, including the research laboratories of the Army, Navy, and Air Force and DARPA.

In August 2012, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute was founded as a public-private partnership to accelerate 3-D research. This was part of the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation, which was formally authorized last year by the Revitalize American Manufacturing Innovation Act sponsored by Chairman Smith.

Apart from the report’s technical explanations of 3-D manufacturing potential, more recognizable 3-D applications include: 

  • NASA research into use of 3-D manufacturing to fabricate buildings on Mars
  • Recent Netherlands demonstration of 3-D manufacturing robots that used molten steel wands to fabricate a bridge over a small canal.
  • 100 percent 3-D manufactured automobile chassis featured at a recent automotive trade show.
  • Development of mouse tissue to use in 3-D manufacture of mouse eyes.

The full report can be found here.