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Emergent Technology

3D Printing

From imagination to reality

3D Printing



3D printing or additive manufacturing is the construction of a three-dimensional object from a CAD model or a digital 3D model. It can be done in a variety of processes in which material is deposited, joined or solidified under computer control, with material being added together, typically layer by layer.

Designers use 3D printers to quickly create product models and prototypes, but they’re increasingly being used to make final products, as well. Among the items made with 3D printers are shoe designs, furniture, wax castings for making jewelry, tools, tripods, gift and novelty items, and toys.

Additive Manufacturing

There are plenty of companies already adopting additive manufacturing (3D Printing) in their production processes with a wide range of use cases.

Here we’ve pulled together a snapshot of information gathered from various public and federal websites to help provide a glimpse of what’s out there now and what may be next.

We are in no way endorsing or recommending any particular technique, company or approach to your specific 3D Printing needs. Our intent is to provide some centralized resources of current and readily-available relevant information to the steadily-growing ecosystem.


Aerospace & Defense

The aerospace industry relies on many small parts to withstand extreme temperatures and chemicals while remaining as light as possible. If certain small parts fail they can result in catastrophic whole system failures on aircraft carrying people, cargo, and other items 35k feet in the sky. 3D printing for inspection tooling is also being used to reduce costs for low-volume or very old legacy airplane parts. We also wouldn’t have to solely rely on ‘Airplane graveyards’ for the most rare aging pieces from mostly whole planes stored at these massive installations.


“The real value in 3D printed parts for automotive manufacturers doesn’t currently lie in printed parts going on cars, but instead for the tooling and fixtures that aid the manufacturing process. The most common parts printed by automotive manufacturers are fixtures, cradles, and prototypes, which need to be stiff and strong, and durable”


“From professors printing parts for educational tools to convey the lesson plan to PhD students utilizing the printers for research, 3D printers serve a variety of purposes in colleges. Colleges like Purdue University in Indiana have taken a great interest in teaching its students about emerging additive manufacturing materials and technology.”


People have been predicting that 3D printing will revolutionize health care for over a decade. Others have dismissed it as a fad. Because of the time and difficulty involved, the technology was initially seen as a way to help physicians plan for rare surgeries. Mayo Clinic, one of the early adopters of 3D printing in hospitals, first used it to plan the separation of conjoined twins in 2006.

But as 3D modeling and printing have become easier, hospitals increasingly see it as a tool for any tricky operation, such as surgery on the heart, a complex organ that moves constantly. Outside of surgical planning, physicians and stakeholders are using the technology to create custom surgical tools, prosthetics and stents, and even printing bio-matter like living tissue, bone, blood vessels, and, organs, among other applications.


“From jigs and fixtures all the way to end-of-arm tooling, 3D printers are completely turning the decades-old manufacturing industry on its head. Companies are able to create custom, low-volume tooling and fixtures at a fraction of the traditional price, giving designers and engineers more time to spend on revenue-generating parts. Small manufacturers get the same advantages with a 3D printer as giant, global manufacturers, to improve and expedite processing while mitigating downtime. Companies are also able to have more creative freedom while saving on labor costs and time. Metal fabrication company Lean Machine, for instance, has approached 3D printing with a design for additive manufacturing (DFAM) approach, saving them upwards of $4000 per tool.”


“Instead of paying large amounts of money for a non-customized design, 3D printers allow robotics companies to design and fabricate light, complex parts such as end-of-arm tooling at a fraction of the cost. Haddington Dynamics, for example, is utilizing its four printers to create 3D printed robot arms for NASA and GoogleX for 58% less than traditional manufacturing.”

Potential Applications at GSA

Below are examples of how this technology can be used within GSA.  GSA is the proud steward of more than 480 historic buildings constructed between the early nineteenth and mid twentieth centuries. 

As we graduate from the Information Age when we asked ‘How do I buy something’ to the Artificial Age now we ask ‘How do I make something’.  3D printing helps alleviate supply chain disruptions (labor and skill set shortages), brought on by the COVID Pandemic.  

Public Buildings

PBS acquires space through new construction and leasing and maintains federal properties nationwide. We own or lease an inventory of more than 8,800 assets, maintain more than 370 million square feet of workspace for 1.1 million federal employees, and preserve more than 500 historic properties.

The Public Buildings Service also:

Getting Started

If we are to move forward and have a positive impact we need to reach out to all Offices/Divisions within GSA and identify who has a need for 3D printing.  We should meet with the Offices/Divisions and discuss with them how 3D printing could be used within their teams.  This would also allow us to identify the type of 3D printer we would need to purchase and how many.

GSA PBS can utilize 3D Printing in the construction of new buildings, preserving historic buildings, and remodeling buildings for new uses.  3D models of new construction projects can be used to identify any possible issues with the design and any changes that may be required.  

3D printing can also be used in the restoration of historical buildings that GSA is responsible for.  In 1836 construction began on the U.S. Treasury building. Its construction spans 33 years, and today it is the oldest departmental building in Washington DC. A magnificent example of Greek Revival style, the building has a great impact on the design of other government buildings.

3D printing can be used to create parts that will enable the restoration process of these magnificent buildings.

Cost of 3D Printers

Professional & Performance: $1,000-$5,000

This price range has a mixed target audience, including experienced and professional individuals as well as small and medium-sized businesses. These printers fall in a weird price range, one that’s on the higher end for an individual consumer but that’s not too much to spend for a business. Nonetheless, these printers are great all-around machines that offer many professional features to yield high-quality prints.

Business & Industrial: $5,000+

The business and industrial 3D printer categories are meant for professional businesses and large-scale manufacturers who need 3D printing to run their businesses. The printers in this category aren’t for your average Joe and can cost anywhere from $5,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Typically, at this price range, you’ll mainly be seeing SLS printers and other special 3D printing technologies (e.g. binder jetting), but, of course, there are still industrial FDM and resin 3D printers.

In closing, we should take steps to identify within GSA where 3D Printing can make a difference, add value, and save money. A critical culture shift needs to take place where society in general should determine how to self-serve themselves and create the items they need instead of defaulting to the manufacturers for these items. The 3D printing community should thrive and continue to share their designs with others in order to minimize waste and to leverage models that others have already created. This in turn will allow the technology to evolve, while also helping others to adopt the technology and the 3D printing mentality.


It is the policy of my Administration to lead the Nation’s effort to combat the climate crisis by example—specifically, by aligning the management of Federal procurement and real property, public lands and waters, and financial programs to support robust climate action.

Despite the peril that is already evident, there is promise in the solutions—opportunities to create well-paying union jobs to build a modern and sustainable infrastructure, deliver an equitable, clean energy future, and put the United States on a path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by no later than 2050."

President Biden

No-to-Low Shipping

Select 3D printing applications may allow GSA to leverage a more sustainable supply chain. This is accomplished by shifting the point of manufacturing from a geographically distant location to the point of use. Localized, e.g. National Capital Region, production of 3D-printed items would alleviate the carbon footprint typically associated with packaging and transportation of goods.

Less Waste

Requiring less raw materials than mainstream manufacturing methods in some instances, 3D printing is comparatively a low-waste alternative.

Lower Cost Potential

The increased availability of filament recycling devices, capable of reusing excess materials from failed or iterative designs, supports reduction of waste and minimizes production costs while not compromising a team’s ability to rapidly prototype.

New Life

Turning waste materials from landfills into filament presents a huge environmental positive for all involved. 3D printing reduces waste through targeted production and uses less energy than conventional manufacturing techniques, but the environmental benefits of the technology can be cancelled out by the demand created for virgin plastic filament.

The Ethical Filament Foundation

“Recycling is a cheap and fast way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, costing 30% less to reduce a ton of CO2 emissions than doing so through energy efficiency, and 90% less than using wind power. Ethical Filament provides a strong demand for recycled plastic and other forms of reusable materials.

Ethical Filament, with the help of volunteers, waste pickers, entrepreneurs, and industry specialists, is using the resources often tossed into the trash to create 3D printing filament. As other groups bring 3D printing technology into countries with lower rates of industrialization, there are three issues that Ethical Foundation is choosing to assist with.

First, the vast amount of waste in the world. Second, the low pay rates of waste pickers which can be as low as $2 per day which can continue a cycle of extreme poverty. And third, that these areas that do not have the same transportation and supply networks which make 3D printing filament costs go up significantly.”


Resources & Artifacts

Sectors & Stakeholders / Office of the CTO

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