The Role of Higher Education in 3D Printing Research and Innovation

Habtamu Diriba, Grischa Fraumann, Jon Maes


Over the past three decades, the development of 3D printing has accelerated rapidly. In considering theories about the economic impact of disruptive technologies, this paper addresses how 3D printing has attracted unprecedented attention from various public and private stakeholders with signs that it will be a major driver of the next economic wave. Outlining the major changes that 3D printing has undergone since its inception, an argument is made that 3D printing has the potential to be widely applicable across higher education settings. Reflecting also on the Triple Helix Model of university-industry-government relationships, this paper contends that higher education institutions (HEIs) should take the lead as key players for 3D printing collaborations across these three sectors. In this regard, several examples of 3D printing’s uses in the higher education sector are described and analysed. However, HEIs must also be mindful of the social, ethical, and legal challenges that 3D printing involves. The paper concludes with possible future advancements of 3D printing along with practical implications for colleges and universities.

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