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Visualizing the hotspots and emerging trends of 3D printing through scientometrics

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journal contribution
posted on 16.06.2017, 12:52 by Yuran Jin, Xin Li, Ian Campbell, Shoufeng Ji
Purpose - 3D printing is believed to be driving the third industrial revolution. A comprehensive understanding of the hotspots and trends of 3D printing may promote the theory development of 3D printing, help researchers to determine the research direction, and provide a reference for enterprises and government to plan the development of 3D printing industry. However, a scientometric visualizing of 3D printing research and an exploration its hotspots and emerging trends are lacking. Therefore, it was necessary to carry out this relevant research. Design/methodology/approach – Based on the theory of scientometrics, 2769 literatures on the 3D printing theme were found in the Web of Science Core Collection’ SCI indexes between 1995-2016. These were analyzed to explore the research hotspots and emerging trends of 3D printing with the software CiteSpaceIII. Findings – (1) hotspots appeared first in 1993, grow rapidly from 2005, and peaked in 2013; (2) hotspots in the "medical field" appeared earliest and have remained extremely active; (3) hotspots have evolved from “drug”, "printer", "rapid prototyping" and "3D printing" in the 1990s, through "laser-induced consolidation", "scaffolds", "sintering" and "metal matrix composites" in the 2000s, to the current hotspots of "stereolithography", "laser additive manufacturing", "medical images", etc.; (4) "3D bioprinting",“titanium”, “stem cell” and "chemical reaction" were the emerging hotspots in recent years; (5) "commercial operation" and "fusion with emerging technology such as big data" may create future hotspots. Research limitations/implications - It is hard to avoid the possibility of missing important research results on 3D printing. The relevant records could be missing if the query phrases for topic search do not appear in records. Besides, in order to improve the quality of data, this study selected articles and reviews as the research objects, which may also omit some records. Originality/value - First, this is the first paper visualizing the hotspots and emerging trends of 3D printing using scientometric tools. Second, not only "burst reference" and "burst keywords", but also "cluster" and "landmark article" are also selected as the evaluation factors to judge the hotspots and trends of a domain comprehensively. Third, overall perspective of hotspots and trends of 3D printing is put forward for the first time.


This work is supported by China’s National Natural Science Foundation under Grant No. 71572031, the economic and social development project from Liaoning Provincial Federation of Social Science Circles under Grant NO. 2016lslktjjx-13, the humanities and social sciences research project from Education Department of Liaoning Province Project under Grant No.W2014051, Liaoning Planning Fund of Philosophy and Social Science Project under Grant NO.L12CJY039, and 2014 Anshan Science and Technology Planning Projects.



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Rapid Prototyping Journal








JIN, Y. ... et al, 2018. Visualizing the hotspots and emerging trends of 3D printing through scientometrics. Rapid Prototyping Journal, 24 (5), pp.801-812.


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This paper was published in the journal Rapid Prototyping Journal and the definitive published version is available at