Hardware

3D printing takes center stage at first ever White House Maker Faire

At the first ever White House Maker Faire, US President Barack Obama spoke on how 3D printing would grow American manufacturing, analysts aren't so sure.

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President Obama with the 17-foot-tall robotic giraffe and its creator Lindsay Lawlor.
Image: White House/Pete Souza

Support for 3D printing has been growing tremendously over the past year. Innovators who are members of the "maker" movement, as well as giant corporations, are using 3D printing to redefine manufacturing through rapid.

Now, it seems, even US President Barack Obama is on board.

On Wednesday, June 18, 2014 President Obama hosted the first ever White House Maker Faire. The goal of the the faire was to give the White House an opportunity to interact with people who are using the newest technology and tools to learn science, technology, engineering (STEM) skills, launch businesses, and disrupt manufacturing.

The White House hosted over 100 makers from more than 25 US states. There were more than 30 exhibits for attendees, and President Obama viewed a subset if the exhibits, among those a 17-feet tall electric giraffe, before delivering his remarks to the audience.

"What on earth have you done to my house?," the president asked, noting some of the most intrusive exhibits across the White House and its lawn.

In addition to groups of national and local officials, a plethora of technology thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and emerging technologists were also in attendance, including teenage Intel intern Joey Hudy and Bill Nye the Science Guy.

According to a White House press release, the President gave special focus to three efforts at the faire on Wednesday

  1. Helping makers launch new businesses and create jobs
  2. Dramatically expanding the number of students that have the opportunity to become maker.
  3. Challenging makers to tackle our most pressing problems

President Obama recognized 3D printing last year in his 2013 State of the Union address; and singled it out during his address at the faire.

"Today's DIY is tomorrow's made in America," Obama said. "Your projects are examples of a revolution that's taking place in American manufacturing. A revolution that can help us create new jobs and industries for generations to come."

While the conversations at the faire seemed hopeful about what 3D printing can help accomplish in the US, Forrester's Michael Yamnitsky isn't convinced that 3D printing is quite ready to fully revitalize American manufacturing.

According Yamnitsky, the White House Maker Faire felt more like an extension of the conversation that was started last year, rather than something fundamentally new that will definitely impact this community.

"There was some commentary coming from President Obama and the White House that 3D printing will bring manufacturing jobs to the US," Yamnitsky said. "We actually believe that will not happen because 3D printing impacts certain parts of manufacturing, but not the bulk of it."

For mass scale manufacturing, traditional manufacturing will typically still be cheaper. Additionally, most 3D printers are specialized for a certain industry or use case and do not have the capability to scale across different verticals.

Even if 3D printing hasn't revolutionized manufacturing yet, the ability of 3D printing to influence young people to pursue STEM learning is still a reality. Forrester's Sophia Vargas said that 3D printing technology gives students something "tangible" that they can see come to life before their eyes.

Vargas said that the White House Maker Faire, and events like it, will ultimately be beneficial for 3D printing in the long run, because they encourage content production which will, "continue to fuel interest, as well as adoption, across the board. From both a consumer and an industrial perspective."

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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