Additive 3D Printing to become an Economic Game Changer

Students at Illinois Tech study potential benefits of additive manufacturing 

Chicago, IL, August 24, 2016 – Students at Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech) are studying uses of additive printing in their coursework and applying their learning in different fields. In Illinois Tech’s Industrial Technology and Management Program (INTM), students are preparing for Operations Management by exploring how and why this rapidly developing technology could prove to be an economic game changer. In Illinois Tech engineering disciplines, students are using additive printing to create actual prototypes for new products.   

This summer a group of undergraduate students from Brazil, supported by the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program (BSMP), participated in two projects at Illinois Tech related to additive 3D printing. Under the direction of INTM Industry Professor Will Maurer, the students spent eight weeks studying how additive printing is creating an entirely new way to design and manufacture products that are presently produced in Asia. Their goal was to learn how technology, when combined with design and supply chain, can create a competitive advantage for any forward thinking organization or nation. Additionally, they found that additive printing streamlines the supply chain and reduces the need for the distribution of components from various sources.  

The two BSMP projects below highlight the economic benefits of additive 3D printing. The students began with the understanding that the majority of product cost lies in its design. They learned that additive printing creates a whole array of design capabilities that are not possible in current widely used manufacturing technologies. With additive printing, many previously separate components can be  incorporated into a single design, eliminating the need for multiple process steps. This results in reduced labor time and costs to create a better performing, more attractive product.  

The Case For Off Road Bicycles Off road bikes are lightweight, extremely strong, high performing, engineered wonders. Their owners are enthusiastic riders dedicated to advancing the performance of their beloved bikes and the off road biking world. Additive printing is providing the opportunity to improve the weight and performance of these bikes as a number of smaller, lesser-known bike manufacturers are already doing.   

Advances in the processing equipment combined with an increasing number of powdered metals and improved processing speeds is enabling frames, gears, peddles, handlebars, seats, cranks and hubs to be created with reduced weight, better performance, fewer parts and ultimately less labor. Although still quite costly, additive printing is narrowing the economic gap between Asia versus locally based manufacturing.  

The Case For Custom Fit Shoes On Demand Why do customers intent on buying a pair of shoes often leave the store empty handed? This was the inspiration to examine this frustrating yet prevalent practice.  

Additive printing of soles and uppers when combined with advances in scanning technology can create custom fit shoes that can be purchased on the spot or at worst delivered to the customer in a matter of days. But creating custom fit shoes is not nearly enough. The next step is to create a business model where shoes are manufactured locally, with nearby distribution centers that are stocked with shoes based on daily receipts from retailers of style, type, size, width, color, etc. that customers prefer to buy. This coordinated management approach can make a difference for a customer.  

Illinois Tech students in Biomedical Engineering will be demonstrating a project involving the use of 3D printing for creating prosthetics Sept. 12-17, 2016 during the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS 2016) at McCormick Place, Chicago, IL. For more information visit   

Illinois Institute of Technology, also known as Illinois Tech, is a private, technology-focused, research university, located in Chicago, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering, science, architecture, business, design, human sciences, applied technology, and law. One of 21 institutions that comprise the Association of Independent Technological Universities (AITU), Illinois Tech offers exceptional preparation for professions that require technological sophistication, an innovative mindset, and an entrepreneurial spirit. Visit  

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