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While the 3D printing industry remains predominantly male-dominated, with women representing a mere 13% according to Women in 3D Printing, the impact created by these women is undoubtedly profound.Their role in shaping the industry cannot be undermined. This article pays tribute to women who’ve pioneered advancements and left an indelible imprint on 3D printing technology.

Early adopters like Elaine Hunt embraced 3D printing at its inception. She began her training on an SLA 250 3D printer at Clemson University in 1989, a time when 3D printing was yet to hit mainstream awareness. By 1994, Hunt was appointed Director of Clemson’s Lab to Advance Industrial Prototyping. Trailblazers like Hunt laid the foundation for current influential female figures in the industry. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Harvard professor Jennifer Lewis, Director of the Lewis Lab, has been instrumental in the domains of bioprinting and electronics. In 2013, her team released the first-ever 3D printed battery. Lewis is also the founder of Voxel8, a company known for its innovations in multi-material 3D printing. Voxel8’s contributions, such as the pioneering multi-material electronics 3D printer, led to its acquisition by Kornit Digital in 2021.

The fashion industry is not untouched by the revolution of 3D printing, with women leading the charge. Anouk Wipprecht is renowned for her unique fusion of 3D printing and electronics, her innovation catching global attention during the Super Bowl halftime show in 2011. Perhaps one of the most well-known designers of 3D printed fashion, Iris van Herpen’s work has been displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. And lastly, we celebrate Neri Oxman, whose 3D printed designs grace exhibits at renowned museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian. She is yet another pivotal figure in this space who also practices architecture and is an MIT professor. 

One of the dangers of digital design is how easy it is to steal designs; one of the most famous cases of 3D printing intellectual property violation happened in 2016, when an eBay user took over 2,000 designs from 3D printing design platform Thingiverse and sold them for profit. Several of those designs belonged to prolific artist Louise Driggers. Also known as Loubie, Driggers’ pursuit for justice was a high-profile spotlight on this issue. The outcry and awareness generated from this incident reminded the industry of the need to protect individual and corporate assets.

Canadian company 3D4MD was founded by Dr. Julielynn Wong, a physician who also founded Medical Makers, an organization that encourages makers to use their skills to develop medical solutions. (Fun fact: 50% of the makers involved are girls and women.) 3D4MD was responsible for designing the first medical supplies to be 3D printed aboard the International Space Station. When not sending splints to space, 3D4MD is designing 3D printable medical supplies for humanitarian organizations that treat people in hard-to-reach areas. The company also designed a solar-powered 3D printer for off-grid regions. 

Speaking of makers, where would the maker community be without Make: Magazine and Maker Faire? While 3D printing is only one of a variety of tools and technologies espoused by the brand, it’s a significant one, strongly advocated for by Maker Faire co-creator Sherry Huss, who is currently the Vice President of Maker Media.

While it’s impossible to acknowledge every deserving woman in this space within a single article, organizations like Women in 3D Printing, founded by Nora Toure, strive to uplift and celebrate these women across the globe.

Despite the current gender disparity in the 3D printing industry, the contributions of women are significant, inspiring, and transformative. As we envisage a more gender-balanced future, we anticipate these influential women will continue to innovate, challenge norms, and drive the evolution of the 3D printing industry.