Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing)

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing, is a process of creating three-dimensional objects from a digital model by depositing material layer by layer. This technology offers significant advantages over traditional subtractive manufacturing methods, such as reduced material waste, greater design flexibility, and the ability to create complex geometries.

Impact on climate action

Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) under Industrial Resource Efficiency drives climate action by minimizing material waste, energy consumption, and transportation emissions. By enabling on-demand production and lightweight designs, this innovation optimizes resource use, reduces carbon footprint, and fosters sustainable manufacturing practices, contributing to a more environmentally friendly industry.


  • Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM): This technology uses a heated nozzle to extrude thermoplastic materials, layer by layer, to build an object.
  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS): This technology uses a laser to selectively sinter powdered materials, layer by layer, to create an object.
  • Stereolithography (SLA): This technology uses a laser to selectively cure a liquid photopolymer resin, layer by layer, to build an object.
  • Selective Laser Melting (SLM): This technology uses a laser to melt and fuse metal powder, layer by layer, to create an object.

TRL : 7-8 (for some additive manufacturing technologies)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • New Materials and Printing Processes: Researchers and startups are developing new materials and printing processes to expand the capabilities and applications of additive manufacturing. This includes developing new metal alloys, composites, and bio-based materials for 3D printing.
  • Multi-Material Printing: Innovations in multi-material printing allow for the creation of objects with different materials and properties within a single print job.
  • Large-Scale Additive Manufacturing: Companies are developing larger and faster 3D printers that can produce larger objects and higher volumes of parts.
  • Hybrid Manufacturing Systems: Combining additive manufacturing with traditional subtractive manufacturing methods can offer advantages in terms of speed, accuracy, and material properties.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Advanced Materials Development
  • Next-Generation Printing Processes
  • Precision Engineering Solutions
  • Sustainable Additive Manufacturing
  • Bioprinting Innovations
  • Industry 4.0 Integration
  • Additive Manufacturing in Aerospace
  • Automotive Applications of 3D Printing
  • Medical Device Advancements
  • Consumer Product Evolution
  • Robotics and Automation in AM
  • Additive Manufacturing in Energy
  • Supply Chain Optimization with AM
  • 3D Printing in Architecture and Construction

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Desktop Metal:
    • Technology Enhancement: Desktop Metal specializes in metal 3D printing, offering a range of printers and associated software aimed at making metal additive manufacturing more accessible and affordable. They focus on innovations in metal powder sintering and binder jetting technologies.
    • Uniqueness: Desktop Metal’s key innovation lies in its ability to produce metal parts quickly and cost-effectively, democratizing metal 3D printing for a wider range of industries and applications.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Their technology caters to industries such as aerospace, automotive, healthcare, and consumer goods, enabling them to create complex metal parts with reduced lead times and costs.
  • Markforged:
    • Technology Enhancement: Markforged is known for its composite and metal 3D printing solutions, utilizing proprietary Continuous Fiber Fabrication (CFF) and Atomic Diffusion Additive Manufacturing (ADAM) technologies. These technologies enable the production of high-strength, lightweight parts.
    • Uniqueness: Markforged stands out for its ability to reinforce 3D printed parts with continuous fibers such as carbon fiber, fiberglass, and Kevlar®, resulting in parts with exceptional strength-to-weight ratios.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Their solutions find applications across industries requiring strong and durable parts, including aerospace, automotive, defense, and industrial manufacturing.
  • Carbon:
    • Technology Enhancement: Carbon specializes in Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) technology, a resin-based 3D printing process that uses light and oxygen to rapidly produce high-quality, end-use polymer parts. Their technology allows for the production of complex geometries with excellent surface finish and mechanical properties.
    • Uniqueness: Carbon’s approach to 3D printing involves continuous liquid interface production (CLIP), which enables faster print times compared to traditional layer-by-layer methods. Their printers also offer a wide range of engineering-grade materials.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Carbon serves industries such as automotive, healthcare, consumer products, and aerospace, providing solutions for rapid prototyping, production tooling, and end-use part manufacturing.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Research Focus: MIT conducts cutting-edge research in additive manufacturing, exploring advancements in materials, processes, and applications. Researchers at MIT are developing novel 3D printing techniques such as multi-material printing, high-speed printing, and continuous printing methods.
    • Uniqueness: MIT’s research often focuses on pushing the boundaries of what is possible with additive manufacturing, such as printing with unconventional materials like ceramics, metals, and even living cells. They also investigate new design paradigms enabled by 3D printing, such as topology optimization and lattice structures.
    • End-Use Applications: The research from MIT has a broad range of potential applications, including aerospace components, biomedical implants, custom electronics, and architectural structures. MIT’s work contributes to the advancement of additive manufacturing as a versatile and efficient manufacturing process.
  • Stanford University:
    • Research Focus: Stanford University is engaged in additive manufacturing research across various disciplines, including materials science, mechanical engineering, and computer science. Their research focuses on improving the speed, precision, and scalability of 3D printing technologies.
    • Uniqueness: Stanford’s research often incorporates interdisciplinary approaches, combining expertise in materials synthesis, machine learning, and robotics to develop innovative additive manufacturing solutions. They explore new materials formulations, process optimizations, and automation techniques.
    • End-Use Applications: Stanford’s research has potential applications in medical devices, consumer products, automotive components, and sustainable manufacturing. Their work contributes to the development of more efficient and sustainable additive manufacturing processes.
  • University of California, Berkeley:
    • Research Focus: The University of California, Berkeley, is involved in additive manufacturing research aimed at advancing materials, processes, and design methodologies. Their research encompasses areas such as bio-printing, microscale printing, and hybrid manufacturing approaches.
    • Uniqueness: Berkeley’s research often emphasizes the integration of additive manufacturing with other manufacturing techniques, such as machining, casting, and laser processing. They explore hybrid approaches that leverage the strengths of different manufacturing methods to achieve complex geometries and material properties.
    • End-Use Applications: Berkeley’s research has applications in biotechnology, microelectronics, precision engineering, and sustainable manufacturing. Their work contributes to the development of customizable and functional 3D-printed products for various industries.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Additive manufacturing is already being used in various industries, including aerospace, automotive, medical devices, and consumer products. For example, GE Aviation uses additive manufacturing to produce fuel nozzles for jet engines, while medical device companies use it to create custom implants and prosthetics.