How 3D printing is paving the way for innovation

Recently, The University of Melbourne and The Research Bazaar held its annual 3D printing showcase

Just over 3000 people came through the doors of Wilson Hall to witness what the world of 3D printing has to offer. The amount of technology in the room was mind blowing! The range of printers and types of objects were diverse. From straight plastic reels to soft resin, bikes and cars through to clothing and jewellery… there is even talk of a catwalk displaying 3D printed fashion next year.

Objects for buildings (not actual size "if you printed houses this small... who's going to live in them?"
Objects for buildings (not actual size “if you printed houses this small… who’s going to live in them?”

One of the coolest exhibits was the 3D printed bike by Reinshaw… well just the frame. But what makes this so good? Because you can 3D print the frame, you can make it significantly lighter. Why? It’s hollow. Imagine being able to print this in Titanium. Titanium is expensive, but by printing it hollow (only possible with 3D printing) is cheaper and saves material, making it more sustainable. You can also have awesome designs by integrating lots of holes all over the frame.

3D printed bike frame - it's hollow!
3D printed bike frame – it’s hollow!

This bike shown is one of only 2 in the world and it actually works! The guys there have taken it mountain bike riding and it actually holds up – they wouldn’t let me ride it however (you can’t ship bikes with brake fluid in them so unfortunately there is no stopping device and I don’t think Melbourne Uni Security would have liked me riding through Wilson Hall). Imagine this bike with 3D printed screws, rims etc. If you broke it you could easily print a part (cheap too) and simply replace it. This would revolutionise the manufacturing industry, allowing customers to make their own designs and modifications.

Rode the 3D bike to the top of a mountain
They rode the 3D bike to the top of a mountain

Some other cool pieces of tech included the Officeworks Mini Me – you can find these in any Officeworks print centre (go try it out) and some great examples of custom printed car parts. The thing I like about 3D printing (and the reason I want one) is because it’s SOOOO incredibly easy to cosplay. Armour, jewellery, weapons; whilst these are hard to make my hand and some intricate designs are almost impossible, with 3D printing they are as simple as creating a computer model. Take the awesome helmet below. Imagine making an entire set of this stuff for a costume. Cool right?

Helmet in the CreatBot being printed
Helmet in the CreatBot being printed
Finished product - check out the detail, especially in the wings
Finished product – check out the detail, especially in the wings

Another fantastic application of 3D printing which is making headway in the innovative, creative space in general is MedTech. There were 3D printed jaws, bones and other parts. All these can be used for surgery and replacement body parts.

Virtual Reality also made an appearance with SCANN3D showing off their awesome 3D real-estate tech. They had an awesome video filmed in New Zealand. When I watched it, I felt like I was riding in the helicopter and could see the amazing landscape in a virtual tour.

Steve from SCANN3D. See the VR googles in his hand?
Steve from SCANN3D. See the VR googles in his hand?

Shark’s Den

After having worked on ideas over approximately 3 months, the teams from the Shark’s Den Innovation Challenge were ready to pitch their ideas. Five fantastic, diverse applications for 3D printing were put to the audience and the expert panel of judges. There were innovative, ergonomic and hygienic kitchen utensils, super-fast printed circuits, home cancer test kits, solar cell lamps and water delivery via drone.

What do you think is the most useful, viable solution? The winners were the home cancer test kit. They spoke about next steps, getting more clinical advice, ensuring hospital grade-sterilisation, testing and refining their design. They demonstrated how they were the only ones doing something like this but their market is huge, therefore their idea has massive potential.

The winning team – Self Health – won something like 200 hours for 3D printing, which will allow them to bring to life more prototypes.

3D printing is changing the way we manufacture and therefore innovate

One of the highlights of the showcase was the number of speeches made over the course of the two days. From what is 3D printing to how to use it to what it’s doing, the speakers kept the audience engaged and gave us all something to think about.

Charlie Day, the Project Director of Carlton Connect, gave the closing talk on how 3D printing is contributing to innovation. How exactly is 3D printing doing this? What does it mean for technology and business? Charlie highlighted how “3D printing is changing the game”. It allows us to really print our imagination. We can create stuff which was previously thought impossible and get even closer to shapes found only in nature. Look at the range of items displayed at just the showcase. These things cannot be cast and printed by traditional techniques. Voxel8 (which I hope to see at next year’s showcase) is taking this game even further by allowing people to print electronics. The Melbourne School of Engineering is looking at getting a multi-material printer making Titanium and other metallic printing possible.

This cool armour, dragon-scale-like object is like ring-mail and is printed as a single piece
This cool armour, dragon-scale-like object is similar to ring-mail and is printed as a single piece

What about getting into the manufacturing market? Previously if you had an idea to make something, you had to do a lot of design work and spend lots of money on printing prototypes and then finally get a prototype suitable to show to investors. Charlie explained how this entire paradigm is flipped on its head with 3D printing. It makes it easier and cheaper for entrepreneurs and designers to break into the market. You can easily, quickly and cheaply print prototypes, make adjustments and re-print. Combine this with companies such as AutoDesk which provide CAD computer modelling programs and you have a system where almost anyone can imagine a design and print it into a physical object in a matter of hours.

This process makes for a highly creative design process. Innovation and startups aren’t all about the technology. The tech is there for anyone to use, but innovation is a human thing. YOU need to come up with the designs, the ideas, the solutions. The tech will help you bring to life what you have in your head. Get’s you excited? There are tonnes of places to help you do this like Maker Labs, Officeworks, Melbourne Uni Eng School, you name it.

3D printing is taking the world by storm and you should get in on it! There’s so much to create, learn and innovate and as Charlie said “it’s an awesome time to be alive”.

Well done to the team at ResBaz for an awesome showcase and I can’t wait until next year!!!

Thanks for reading, sorry it took a little while to get this up, but I hope you enjoyed it. Have a great weekend everyone.

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