The 3D printer has come a long way since the debut of consumer-friendly printers in the early 2000s. The versatile technology allows designers and engineers to forgo traditional manufacturing, opening up a world of seemingly endless possibilities. But the instrument has its limits. The process can be slow, and most objects can only be built layer by layer – with just one material at a time.

Stanford University researchers are challenging the limitations of current 3D printing technology. One innovative printing method is increasing printing speeds by 10x that of the quickest available model and allowing researchers to introduce multiple materials at once. Another group of engineers is using light to carve intricate designs into stationary mounds of resin, hoping to eliminate the need to build from the bottom up.

From creating surprisingly strong nanoscale lattices built to protect fragile satellites to fashioning heart tissue from living cells to combat congenital heart disease, these researchers are exploring the what ifs of this technology. What if our products were more resilient? What if we used biomaterials? And what if we take a moment to consider the inevitable questions that will arise as we move forward with this emerging technology?

A new 3D printing method promises faster, multi-material creations

Engineers have designed a method of 3D printing that is five to 10 times faster than the quickest high-resolution printer currently available.

New nanoscale 3D printing material offers better structural protection

Engineers have designed a new material for nanoscale 3D printing that is able to absorb twice as much energy and could be used to create better lightweight protective lattices.

Is there a better way to do 3D printing?

Engineers at Stanford and Harvard have laid the groundwork for a new 3D printing system that doesn’t require an object to be printed from the bottom up.

Building a heart, one layer at a time

Using advanced 3D printing techniques, Mark Skylar-Scott and his team want to transform a paste made of living cells into hearts and other organs.

Engineering a new heart, layer by layer

In the hopes of helping children with congenital heart defects, Mark Skylar-Scott is engineering heart tissue in the lab using advanced 3D printing techniques.

'Metalheads' course teaches scope of materials science and engineering

From ancient coins to 3D printed spaceships, students in the course Metalheads of Science learn about the broad applications of materials science through the lens of metals.

A new approach to vaccinations: 3D printed patches

Researchers published a paper detailing a vaccine patch prototype, demonstrating that the concept was not only feasible but also potentially more effective than injected vaccinations at generating a robust immune response.

Engineering health through 3D printing

Stanford Engineering professors discuss 3D printing and major advances in health care that have resulted from the burgeoning technology – from vaccine patches and nanoscale robots to life-saving heart tissues.

Joseph DeSimone: How 3D printing is changing medicine

With growing precision and new materials, 3D printing stands to reshape health care.

Touch-based display helps blind people create in three dimensions

Stanford researchers designed a tactile display that aims to make 3D printing and computer-aided design accessible to people who are blind and visually impaired.

A novel approach to cardiac surgery

Stanford medical student Kevin Cyr is part of a team of researchers using 3D printing to build custom cardiac surgical devices.