The Economist has dubbed 3D printing the “third industrial revolution,” given the breakthroughs that the technology will enable – in manufacturing, construction, medicine, nutrition, and many other fields.
While 3D printing dates originally to the 1980s, rapid advances in technology in recent years have given rise to a spate of new, game-changing applications – and as with so many other innovations, Israel is on the cutting edge of the 3D printing boom.
By some estimates, the Startup Nation manufactures about 40 percent of all 3D printers worldwide, but Israel is best known for the ingenious applications it’s finding for 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing.
As with other high-tech sectors, Israel’s 3D printing industry has flourished thanks to the confluence of world-class academic research, entrepreneurial spirit, and substantial public-private investments in R&D.
In 2015, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem launched The 3D and Functional Printing Center, the first such institute to be established in Israel. The center serves as a hub for Hebrew University researchers working on a range of 3D printing technologies and applications, from robotics to solar cells to military and medical equipment.
Scientists at the university recently unveiled a new platform for complex, 3D-printed medicine, delivered through hydrogels into which medication is inserted.
The pills are able to expand, change shape, and can even be programmed to activate at a set time – a promising new step on the path toward personalized, patient-centered medicine. Researchers at the center are also pioneering other novel applications in the health field, including 3D printing of artificial organs.
What else is happening on the Israeli 3D printing scene? Here’s a glance at how just a few innovative Israeli companies are taking the technology to the next level:
· With dual headquarters in Minnesota and Israel, Stratasys transforms digital data into 3D-printed objects. Stratasys’s clients include companies in the automotive, consumer products, medical, and aerospace industries. Founded in 1989, Stratasys merged in 2012 with the Israeli company Objet, a leading developer of 3D printing systems.
· Massivit 3D Printing Technologies develops 3D printing solutions for visual communication and displays, for use in advertising, retail, entertainment, architecture, and interior design. The company’s proprietary gel dispensing printing technology enables the printing of massive signage and displays at a competitive cost.
· 3DMTP – 3D model to print – offers a patent-pending software service for designing 3D-printable architectural models. Based in Tel Aviv and with offices in the U.S., the company offers users in the architectural and industrial design communities a cost-effective, seamless way to design 3D Computer-aided Design models, without having to manually creating them.
· Founded in 2005, XJet uses its proprietary NanoParticle Jetting™ technology to 3D print metal and ceramic parts. The XJet team holds more than 75 registered and pending patents, and the company recently opened the world’s largest 3D printing center for ceramics and metals in Rehovot.
Few could have foreseen an era in which medical devices, pharmaceuticals, solar panels, and even homes could be printed. But true to character, Israel’s scientists and technological visionaries have not only prepared the country for this future, but are helping chart its course. Israeli innovation may well be printable – but it can’t be copied.