3D Printing and PWG Standards
January 22, 2015

What do two-legged dogs, a floppy airway, and a custom-built car have in common? The answer: 3D printing and PWG standards.

3D printing, considered a niche novelty a few years ago, is barreling into the mainstream. In recent months, a company called Local Motors debuted a mid-market prototype car using large-scale 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, creating building blocks much like Lego® bricks one layer at a time. And WinSun China is printing homes and apartment buildings!

3D printing is emerging as a solution not only for industrial goods, but also for medical applications. In two examples, South Carolina printing company teamed with a humane society to create artificial legs for a dog. Medical staff and engineers also recently developed biodegradable plastic splints and sewed them around a child’s bronchi to enable breathing. The 3D printing engineer/developer, who has previously focused on industrial parts, noted that this kind of printing capability “…(will) democratize manufacturing…”.

Importantly to the industry that develops printers and associated products and services, TechCrunch reports that the monetary investment in 3D printing “surged” in 2014. The site notes that “...Last year, spending on 3D printing and additive manufacturing hit $3.07 billion dollars, according to a report from industry analyst group Wohlers Associates. That number is projected to reach $12.8 billion by 2018, and $21 billion by 2020…"

So what does this mean for the IEEE-ISTO Printer Working Group (PWG) and its members, as well as to both enterprise and consumer users of these 3D printers? Much like the early days of the PC, networking, and storage industries that revolutionized our world, 3D printing is a bit of a “Wild West” when it comes to standards. Over the last 17 years the PWG has developed many standards for 2D printing, including the Internet Printing Protocol (IPP) and the PWG Semantic Model, which are widely adopted and have made network printing a predictable, reliable service.

By using similar approaches, 3D printers can streamline internal processing, ensure interoperability, and encourage development of standards-based applications and services. PWG standards also address security, not only for the confidentiality of print data but to provide access control and safe use.

The PWG is currently investigating how to best support networked 3D printers and invites all interested developers to participate in our discussions. The next 3D Printing BOF will take place on February 4, 2015 at the February 2015 face-to-face meeting. The PWG also has a 3D printing mailing list for discussing potential solutions and the necessary data models.