3D Print - Your Competitive Edge

Many of us are familiar with ‘3D effects’ that we see in movies but few may have heard of Additive Manufacturing (AM) or more commonly known as Three Dimensional Printing (3D Printing). For those of us who don’t, 3D Printing is, simply put, a revolutionary engineering technology that enables the fabrication of 3D parts using a computer-aided programme which adds the materials sequentially, layer by layer.

Two key advantages of 3D Printing is first, its ability to print highly complex models and structures and second, its ability to print a model or structure with no material wastage and thus at no additional material cost. Therefore, 3D Printing has the ability to reduce manufacturing costs for many industries and help them build more environmentally friendly products. The Economist has predicted 3D printing to be the leading force in a third industrial revolution based on its capacity to address and adapt to the dynamism of the industry’s trends and demands.

Undoubtedly, 3D printing will be one of the key technologies Singapore must embrace as part of the future of manufacturing and construction. Singapore sees opportunities to use 3D printing as an enabler of industries, to increase productivity, reduce cost and create products deemed never possible before. In the Research Innovation Enterprise 2020 Plan (RIE2020) announced in 2016, Singapore set aside 17% ($3.3bn) of the record $19bn R&D commitment for the Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering sector. Identified as the frontrunner and enabler of engineering, 3D Printing will take lead in advancing this technology domain.

At the Singapore Centre for 3D Printing (SC3DP) in the Nanyang Technological University, the future of 3D printing is fast taking shape. Officially launched on 17 May 2016, the centre is supported by Singapore’s National Research Foundation and several other government agencies. SC3DP endeavours to keep Singapore at the forefront of 3D-printing technology, develop capabilities not yet available elsewhere in the world and position Singapore as an advanced manufacturing hub in the world. The research centre aims to become a world leader in 3D printing and a wellspring of knowledge by attracting leading researchers and nurturing a skilled talent pool, establishing strong linkages with and delivering state of the art and innovative solutions to the industry. To help Singapore-based companies ride the wave of the “third industrial revolution”, SC3DP has identified five key areas of research, namely the future of manufacturing, aerospace and defence, building and construction, marine and offshore, and, lastly, biomedical and food. Research ranging from the 3D printing of lightweight unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to healthy puree food that may be easily digested by elderly patients who have difficulty in chewing and swallowing solid food are ongoing.

While 3D printing technology makes many things possible, it is sometimes not cost effective due to high costs of the printer and/or materials. Nonetheless, there are various schemes to help SMEs. SMEs get to tap on the innovation and capability voucher from SPRING worth $5,000 to defray costs. There is also the capability development grant, which defrays up to 70 per cent of project costs. Exquisite Nails Spa is one company that has tapped on these schemes as they turn to technology to adapt and remain competitive to the changing economic climate. Through offering customers 3D printed nail art, the spa is working with SC3DP to test designs such as flowers, butterflies and even dragons. The advantages of using 3D printing technology in the creation of 3D nail art is that it is done much faster and more accurately, thus consuming less time compared to a nail artist doing the same job of creating the nail art.

Even as 3D printing applications are being developed, a new frontier in additive manufacturing is already emerging. 4D printing, whereby an object is 3D printed from materials that respond to environmental changes, is allowing researchers to create ‘smart’ objects that can transform to meet specific needs. For example, SC3DP has already 4D printed a sunshade that can bend to provide shade when heated by sunlight. This is in collaboration with a local SME (Studio Green) to explore a smart sunshade by using 4D printing. Ideally, the sunshade will automatically bend downwards when the sun is strong, and this smart feature can save electrical energy for buildings.

- Professor Chua Chee Kai, Executive Director, Singapore Centre for 3D Printing (SC3DP) -

In partnership with the Association of Small & Medium Enterprises, the next WSQ 3D Printing for Rapid Product Development course will be held on 27-28 April and 2-3 May 2017. Participants in the course will learn about 3D Printing, the various 3D Printing techniques, applications, case studies and trends over a 4-day course. The course includes a 1-day workshop where one will get to watch and understand 12 different 3D Printing systems (printing cells, chocolate, circuits, copper and concrete). More information on this course can be found online at, or email The course is supported by SkillsFuture.