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A Comparison of Three Emerging Online Government 3D Printing Resources: NASA 3D Resources, Smithsonian X3D, and the NIH 3D Print Exchange

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United States governmental agencies, departments, and affiliates, are increasingly making 3D printable models available to the general public online. On March 20, 2014, a memorandum was sent out to United States executive departments and agencies about improving access to the government’s scientific collections (Holdren, 2014). This memorandum, from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), not only addressed physical collections, but specifically mentioned digital 3D models. On the White House’s blog, several reasons were given for making these collections more accessible including the idea that these collections are “… treasure troves of information ripe for exploration and learning” (Stebbins & Lieberman, 2014).

Several areas of the United States government have begun making 3D models available to the general public or were already doing so at the time the memorandum was released. Three of the largest collections are from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Two of these, the NIH and NASA, are government agencies while the Smithsonian Institution is a Trust Instrumentality of the United States (Legal Nature, 2016). These sites offer downloadable, printable files in addition to educational resources. The Smithsonian’s website even states it is “the end of ‘do not touch.’” (Getting Started, 2016).

This review focuses on the 3D printing sections of these three websites including the models, supplementary materials, and resources.

Publication date: October 1, 2016

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