Houston: The Rising Hub for Innovative 3D Printing Across Various Industries


ZMorph VX Multitool 3D Printer [Source: ZMorph via Unsplash]

Charles R. Goulding and Preeti Sulibhavi highlight industries that are flourishing in Houston, Texas.

Texas’ unique geographic location, business-friendly regulatory environment, skilled workforce, and abundant natural resources have made it an economic dynamo to compete with.

Houston is the fourth largest city in the US and is quickly expanding. Built on oil and gas, Houston has just been ranked as number one for International Business. There has been organic growth in the green energy industry as well as some other strong markets (i.e., shipping/trade, technology, manufacturing, engineering and healthcare, etc.).

Houston is recognized for its significant role within the energy industry, having earned the title of the “Energy Capital of the World.” However, recent discussions have been referring to the city as “The Energy Transition Capital of the World,” indicating Houston’s swift evolution towards green energy solutions. The transition outlined here is seen as critical for the city’s progress in the energy sector, which has been further enhanced by an array of tax incentives resulting from recent federal and state legislative measures. Concurrently, the 3D printing industry has shown its adaptability, effectively shifting toward different markets with its unique design capabilities, material versatility, and on-site operational flexibility. As a result, 3D printing has made significant inroads into the energy, shipping/marine, aerospace/defense, and healthcare sectors.

Oil & Gas

Historically, Houston’s economy has been strongly tied to traditional oil and gas sectors. Big-name companies like Chevron, BP, ExxonMobil, and Shell are securely entrenched in Houston, Texas, reaffirming the city’s prominence in these industries.

A testament to this, the three foremost companies in oil and gas equipment supply —Halliburton, Schlumberger, and Baker Hughes— maintain their headquarters within Houston’s city limits.

The oil and gas sector is channeling its focus towards novel advancements to meet the increasing global energy requirement in an environment-friendly manner. In the year 2021, the first edition of Standard 20S was released by the American Petroleum Institute (API). This standard promotes the application of 3D printing in the oil and gas business by outlining criteria for quality, industry usage specifications, and protocols for training and inspection.

Alternative Energy

A transition into alternate energy sources can be facilitated by the oil and gas industry. The expertise relating to production procedures such as offshore drilling and land drilling can be directly utilized for offshore wind and geothermal energy output. Solar projects demand a vast amount of brackets and fasteners, areas where 3D printing can be beneficial.

We have already discussed how the 3D printing sector is aiding in making alternate energy projects more cost-effective at present, thereby making them significantly viable economic options. The usage of 3D printers to manufacture replacement parts or to mend alternate energy equipment is also a strategy to avoid supply chain delays.

Emerging technologies such as direct carbon capture are reaching maturity, and the incorporation of 3D printing, along with its generative design and digital twin capabilities, into project designs as original equipment is becoming a reality.


In the marine industry, on-site equipment repair or maintenance is frequently needed. This is where submarine drones come into play. Blue Robotics, a tech company from California, is actualizing this concept with the assistance of Sculpteo’s 3D printing workflows. Defined as small GPS-guided, solar-powered boats, these submarine drones are capable of covering considerable distances in the ocean. The Blue Robotics team used 3D printers to manufacture thrusters capable of withstanding both water pressure and salt water, as there were no commercially available options at the time. The team’s innovative design rendered their thruster extremely versatile, with both the motor and propeller differing from typical designs as they allow water to flow through both components. This is what enables their drones to operate fully submerged in water.

Additive manufacturing using rapid plasma deposition for titanium parts [Source: Norsk Titanium]

Aerospace & Defense

Houston is home to the large NASA Space Center complex. The aerospace industry is one of the most widespread users of 3D printing. That includes taking 3D printers into outer space. We have covered many of the leading aerospace companies’ projects and acquisitions and how some of them have been experimenting with 3D printers as well.


In Texas, there has been substantial development in healthcare technologies, which includes 3D printing. Seagull, a Dallas-based tech company, is exploring the possibilities of 3D printers to enable the healthcare industry to gain a better visual representation of the impact of various diseases on human organs and tissue. Seagull envisions a significant application of 3D printing in the advancement of healthcare through customizing MedTech, bioprinting, and in the framework of drugs/medication regimens. Biomedical innovations happening at the premier school Rice University, based in Houston, Texas, are also covered here. The biomedical team at Rice is utilizing bioprinting to offer patients battling chronic medical conditions a ray of hope for a healthier future by regenerating cells. Ranging from cancer to orthopedics, bioprinting has been a pivotal breakthrough for the healthcare industry – all thankful to the researchers at Rice University.

The Research & Development Tax Credit

The now permanent Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit is made available for companies developing new or improved products, processes and/or software.

3D printing can serve to enhance a company’s R&D Tax Credits. The wages for technical employees engaged in creating, testing and revising 3D printed prototypes can be considered as a percentage of the eligible time spent for the R&D Tax Credit. In a similar vein, when implemented as a technique for improving a process, the time invested in assimilating 3D printing hardware and software can be regarded as an eligible activity. Lastly, when used for modeling and preproduction, the costs of filaments consumed during the development process may also be recovered.

Whether it is used for creating and testing prototypes or for final production, 3D printing is a great indicator that R&D Credit eligible activities are taking place. Companies implementing this technology at any point should consider taking advantage of R&D Tax Credits.

“Houston, We Have a Problem”

But it is a high-class problem, as so many industries are finding homes in Houston, Texas. Leading industries such as shipping/maritime, healthcare, and aerospace/defense have settled there. 3D printing companies around the world should keep Houston on their radar for tapping into new markets and recruiting top talent.

Original source


“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”

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