3D Printing in the Internet of (my) Things

Published by Telefónica m2m Team m2m General

The Internet of Things (IoT) seeks a world where everything is connected. 3D printing seeks a world where everything can be printed on the spot. Both are revolutionary ideas. So how do they relate and are both ready for the match up?

3D Printing set to reshape the supply chain

One of the major milestones of the IoT is to reach a forecasted 26 billion connected devices by 2020 (an astounding 30 times more than now). So how can this number ever be reached in time?

One of the ways these forecasted figures are expected to become reality is to totally rethink today’s design and manufacture process through 3D printing.

3D Printing has been deemed by many as useful mainly for customization and prototype creation. So, what does 3D Printing have to offer to Manufacturing?

As Forbes puts it, 3D Printing provides small-lot production capacity, rapid and agile manufacturing and a capacity to reverse engineer. Combining these capabilities with M2M technology makes 3D Printing the manufacturing powerhouse behind IoT.

According to a report from Gartner, companies are expected to invest in the double digits of their annual budgets to allow their supply chains to adapt to the paradigm shift.

Gartner warns though that 3D Printing is still only in early stages and its application to the manufacturing process is still only marginal at this point.

Medical 3D Printing with an IoT twist

One of the greatest hopes for medicine is the technological progress 3D Printing is expected to undergo. Very soon doctors hope to see perfectly adapted 3D printed human prosthesis, stents and farther along the road artificial organs.

To know for sure how these external elements are withstanding time, tracking, diagnostic and failure control systems must be embedded in these 3D Medical products to safeguard the patients’ health.

Healthcare must rely on some technology to keep track of these customized medical products. RFID tags and QR codes seem inefficient tracking methods and prone to errors or inefficiencies.

So how will they be detected and distinguished inside a patient without an RFID tag or visual encoding? This may be done with a new way of identifying objects using 3D called InfraStructs.


Carnegie Mellon and Microsoft Research may have a solution that will bring 3D printing and the Internet of Things in the healthcare industry together. Through the creation of 3 dimensional tags, 3D printed objects can have unique identifiers, analogous to the MAC Addresses computers have.

This new wave of 3 dimensionally tagged elements can be scanned even when inside other materials with a Terahertz scanner like the ones used in Medical Imaging devices.

Being able to have 3D Printed components (that can be unique) inside patients tracking and sending information is a major breakthrough that can find applications in the manufacturing side of 3D Printing and bind even closer the future of 3D printing as the driving force in the expansion of the IoT.

Telefónica m2m Team

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