3D Printing

3D Printing in Higher Ed Grows; Average Contract $32,000

Designs for 467 models of bone structures, proteins, scientific tools and other objects have appeared in the new exchange created by the National Institutes of Health to allow users to share, download and edit 3D print files in health and science. NASA is testing the use of 3D printing in zero gravity for potential use on the International Space Station. And maker spaces with 3D printers are popping up in public libraries as far apart as Nevada City, CA; Denton, TX and University City, MO.

A company that monitors federal, state and local contracting has discovered that the expansion of 3D printing is growing in the public sector — including colleges and universities.

Onvia, which maintains a database of contracting data, reported that references to "3D printing" in awards made in all education (both K-12 and higher ed) grew from 18 in 2012 to 27 in 2013 and is expected to grow dramatically from there in 2014, where 24 awards have already been issued for the first half of the year. More than eight of 10 awards since 2011 were issued in K-12 settings, the remainder in colleges and universities.

For example, Cleveland Community College in North Carolina awarded a bid to Technical and Management Resources for 3D printers for $37,600. Georgia Institute of Technology gave the same company a bid worth $40,000 to provide a Stratasys Dimension Elite 3D printer as well as products and training. Dallas County Community College District in Texas issued a $36,700 contract for a 3D printer to be used by students in engineering, technology and manufacturing courses.

These are fairly typical award sizes apparently. Onvia reported that the average 3D printing contract value in higher ed was $32,170. The median value was $31,472.

For projects slated to start in 2015, "3D printing" shows up in budgets and agency planning documents, the majority (97 percent) related to K-12 projects and the remainder (3 percent) for higher ed.

"The opportunities in 3D printing extend beyond manufacturers and distributors of 3D printers," noted Onvia in a blog entry on its Web site. "Consultation, training and maintenance are involved as [are] software, design tools, scanners and finishing machines."

"Onvia's database has solid evidence of a growing trend in 3D technology opportunities with increased state, local and education activity happening over the next few years as educational institutions and local municipalities embrace this new technology to teach, educate and improve quality of life for their local communities," said Onvia Senior Marketing Manager Kelsey Voss.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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