3D Printing in Nonprofits: Innovating Aid with AM

There are almost 10 million nonprofit organizations around the world today. In the United States alone, there are 1.5 million registered 501(c)(3) organizations that operate with goals oriented toward altruistic or humanitarian causes. Spanning from small, grassroots community groups, to large, multinational programs with operations around the world, nonprofit organizations can take many forms and perform a variety of roles based on the needs of their surroundings. Their sectors are vast as well encompasing everything from advocacy to food security, medical assistance, and law, even within the world of additive manufacturing in construction, where 3D printing is being used to create homes and schools thanks to nonprofit organizations.

Indeed, these groups play a big role in many communities around the world and have been instrumental in ways that governments and for-profit entities have not been effective. However nonprofit organizations, as their name and nature imply, are often operating on very tight budgets with small teams of dedicated people and volunteers. A 2022 report from Fitch Ratings found that nonprofit healthcare organizations had an operating margin of just 0.2%. This slim balance means that organizations are often hard-pressed to find the resources necessary to complete their tasks. Enter 3D printing, where a wide range of technologies and industries bring the benefits of lower cost, fewer staff and training, and the ability to create on-demand rather than operating in constant shortage and excess. Not to mention the elimination of logistics and supply chain barriers, and the lower operating costs in both materials and energy.

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