Thanks again to Barclays we were also able to see one of the 3D printers from their lab and it spent the day happily printing an object for all to see.
The way this particular printer works is by having a storage of plastic which is heated and melted at the printer head which moves around in whatever pattern planned by the computer. It starts from a point on the very base of the object and as it goes, it leaves the melted plastic behind to “print” the object layer by layer from the ground up.
At Barclay’s lab you’re free to go in with whatever design you like and get the printers to print them for you and try out different ways of printing. If you’re going to go, I would also recommend having a play with their laser cutter, on our visit we made ourselves Adido branded coasters cut out of wood which not only looked pretty smart but the smell was amazing.
Anyway, back to 3D printers. Due to the fact that the objects are created layer by layer rather than cut out of a larger block, it’s actually possible to make objects that you simply couldn’t make any other way. You can even make parts that can move.
Commercially speaking, one of the most exciting things for business is in the part of the sentence above “rather than cut out of a larger block”. In normal manufacturing, cutting is how you get to the end product but cutting means waste. 3D printing is also known as “additive” manufacturing because you start with nothing and you add to make the object.
There have been other developments too. Due to the unique way it’s printed, parts that previously had to be cut out as two separate parts can now be printed as one, Also, with computer models we can design parts which maintain the full strength of a solid piece but with a lot less material.
All of this combined is a game changer. All of a sudden it’s now possible to create more parts with a lot less material which ultimately makes parts lighter and cheaper to make. No surprise then that companies like Boeing and CE Aviation are leading the way in pushing this technology, 3D printed parts have already been approved to fly. If you’re interested, this is a story of one such 3D printed part:
Naturally it doesn’t stop there, we have now 3D printed lots of buildings (including a castle), cars, guns (still illegal folks), food and even body parts.
To be expected, some businesses have jumped on this new band wagon to create new products including printed models of your unborn baby, a replica of your lost pet or your kids bad drawings. Personally none of these float my boat but after our recent drone-flying trip to Snowdon, there was a company that we could send our walking route to who would then 3D print the topology of the mountain with our route marked out with a red line.
This is an industry that from a marketing perspective is rampant with possible ideas as it provides the holy grail of marketing - personalisation. One of the most valuable assets from all this in my opinion will be 3D data of our individual scans. Whichever company manages to get us all to scan ourselves and release the rights to that data will have the keys to a castle. Your clothes, shoes, sports equipment, headphones, your chair, your bed, all personalised to your individual shape.
No doubt, one day 3D printing will probably find its way into our homes, taking a similar place to that of the current microwave or the fridge. There could be an iTunes equivalent whereby we download objects we want to print at home. Maybe one day it will even print our food or personalised vitamins and medication.
So there you have it, 4 technologies that will inevitably change the world as we know it.
I hope you’ll join us at next year’s Attention Summit to see how the journey is going and have some fun along the way.