CRS report via FAS – 3D Printing: Overview, Impacts, and the Federal Role, August 2, 2019: “Three-dimensional (3D) printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a highly flexible manufacturing process that has been used in product development and production for the past 30 years. Greater capabilities, lower prices, and an expanded range of manufacturing materials have vastly expanded adoption of 3D printers over the last decade and a half. The economic and scientific potential of this technology, as well as certain regulatory concerns (such as 3D printing of firearms), have recently increased congressional interest.
3D printers are used in a variety of industries—such as aerospace, medicine, and education—as well as in nonspecific custom prototyping. Both private industry and the federal government have supported these applications of 3D printing. Support from the federal government has included basic and applied research funding from the National Science Foundation, as well as research and development funding from mission agencies such as the Department of Defense, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. More broadly, federal support for additive manufacturing has been provided through the flagship institute of the Manufacturing USA program, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (also known as America Makes). This consortium of industry, university, and government seeks to “[accelerate] the adoption of additive manufacturing technologies in the United States to increase domestic manufacturing competitiveness.” In recent years, hundreds of millions of dollars—public and private—have been invested in 3D printing-related companies and 3D printing research and development…”