Our regular readers will know by now that our Amsterdam Studio often hosts an event called ‘At the Bar’ where we welcome people from all sorts of professions to come and tell us a little bit about their life, career, interests, discoveries and/or insights. It’s pretty broad and always inspiring. Our last session was with Mark Austen and Jeroen Lauwers from Print3D Matter, who paid us a visit to talk about the world of 3D printing. Our Designer Robin was at the talk – here is his take on the event…
3D printing is an industry that seems to be accelerating at an incredible rate. Once a vision of the future, 3D printing has now arrived and is fast becoming a commonplace tool on an industrial and personal level.
As the name suggests, rather than traditional ‘2D’ printing which we are all used to, 3D printing basically uses many 2D printed items layered directly on top of one another, building a 3D shape from the bottom up. The genius of 3D printing is its ability to create any imaginable shape quickly and easily, from nearly any material, and at a very low cost (depending on the material, of course). You can print using just about anything; plastic, clay, wood, gold, titanium. Hook up a 3D scanner and hey presto, you’ve got the ability to replicate anything you can lay your hands on.
From bespoke gadgets and printed food, to plane parts and habitats on the moon, a vast range of industries and their creative teams are using 3D printing techniques for small-scale prototyping right up to new processes that could reshape the way we create and make things. All of this information can be readily found online, of course, but listening to Mark and Jeroen talk opened our minds up to the immediate possibilities. Imagine printing your cutlery instead of having to go to Ikea to buy it? Or designing and printing your own gold wedding ring? The opportunities seem endless.
One of my favourite stories was of a man who had a vintage toilet with a piece that was missing. After a two year search failing to find a replacement piece, he went to Print3D Matter. They scanned the damaged area and printed a piece that fit perfectly!
One significant benefit of 3D printing is its potential to have a very low environmental impact. The machines are very energy efficient and cost very little to run. It’s an additive not subtractive process of manufacturing, which means that there is minimum (and recyclable) waste. Recycled plastics are set to play a big part in the production of materials for 3D printing; Mark showed us a machine that can take any plastic in one end and spit out 3D printing thread the other. It was just like a giant play-doh factory but much more useful.
Ed Mitchell, Director of Realisation at DB London, explains how we are using 3D printing, “Here at Design Bridge we regularly use 3D printing to explore ideas and develop our 3D designs, such as bespoke barware for creating the perfect serve. In fact, our recent KFC craft drinks dispensing machine used 3D printed parts in the prototyping stage and for the final dispenser (read more about this here). We chose to use 3D printing for this project due to the unique advantage it gave us – we were able to design and implement a creative solution quickly, without compromise. 3D printing is changing the fundamental way we work. It’s evolving our creative thinking and enabling us to work with our clients in new, exciting ways.”
One of our ‘At the Bar’ audience members, Beth Rogers of kuunda3d, told us that she is currently looking at using the technology in Tanzania. Given the low energy required to run these machines, it’s perfectly possible to run solar powered printers for a wide range of uses – from farm equipment to wedding accessories. No expensive overheads, no long lead times. Just download parts and print locally. Beth’s example is one of a growing multitude embracing this new technology to find solutions for problems that couldn’t previously be solved.
It is even possible to print a plastic figurine of yourself and this is exactly what we did on the evening. A raffle was drawn up (everyone loves a raffle!) and a winner picked. Robbi was scanned there and then and, just a few days later, Print3D Matter delivered Robbi’s figurine.
All in all it was a highly inspirational evening, introducing some of the latest 3D printing technology, and talking about how it can stimulate creativity over the coming years.
Thanks once again to Mark and Jeroen for opening our eyes and imaginations.