The DIGICAL show – the land were a £10,000 printer is considered cheap and anything less than £2,000 is barely worth investing in.
3D printing was not necessarily new to me. When I studied Fine Art I experimented with the Universities facilities but this show took my knowledge to a whole new level. From printers that use LED screens to harden resin to the traditional build up of a material in layers, the printers on show displayed a range of printer quality, speed and reliability; the latter being perhaps the most important.
Imagine being 94 hours into a printing session and having the printer suddenly cut out, leaving your model unfinished and effectively useless. This happened not once but twice to a gentleman who had invested in a ‘cheap’ model. At that rate perhaps it would have been quicker to manually produce the model, you know, a bit of hands on crafting (I didn’t mention this to him though as he seemed irritated enough).
The show enabled me to see what is available for us to develop prototypes with but it also hammered home the need to listen to consumers. The building was full of buyers and sellers, each with unique stories of failures and successes. When Edward Feng began to talk about his involvement in Raise3D, another 3D printing company, he emphasised the need to take a user first and community based approach. His company failed with its first generation of 3D printers and only by listening to what its consumer wanted, learning and understanding the customer’s needs is the product and company now successful.
As time passes and 3D printing technology becomes more advanced and cheaper it may be that each and every home contains a 3D printer and that the market for mass producing other goods disintegrates. Why walk to a store and buy a new plant pot when you can 3D print one in your living room? For now though it seems that the technology has enough kinks in it to warn off anyone who isn’t tech savvy, with a trip to Wilkinson’s looking more enjoyable that learning how to use CAD.
3D printed objects developed using Image Scanning techniques