Last night in North London, assorted press and tech opinion formers converged on the Kings Place conference centre to hear talks from two of the UK 3D print industry’s most dynamic figures and see some of the latest machines in action.
Hosted by RS Components, the global distributor for engineers, the event saw RepRap founder Adrian Bowyer and 3D Systems’ Education Coordinator Iain Major on stage, while various devices, including the formidable, yet-to-be-launched CubePro were on exhibit. Though mainly focussed on introducing those new to the technology to its various possibilities and potential usages, there were still plenty of fascinating ideas and opinions being shared.
Throughout Bowyer’s talk, the engineer spoke in refined tones about the philosophy behind his game-changing, self replicating invention. In the same way flowers need insects to pollinate their seeds and so draw them in with nectar, he explained, the RepRap needs its human user to aid its self-replication and so draws them in with the potential of creating useful goods.
Speaking on perhaps the least comfortable question that surrounds the technology, that of whether 3D printing could become a ‘destroyer of industries’ that lays waste to manufacturing jobs across the globe, Bowyer drew another comparison. In the same way, he put it, that the blacksmith was replaced by mass producing factories and the town laundry was replaced by the washing machine, 3D printing is simply another, inevitable step in the human quest for a more efficient, more cost effective way of getting things done.
Iain Major detailed many of the exciting educational projects currently taking place in UK schools. A former teacher who later went into the technology industry, Major’s passion for passing on the possibilities of 3D printing to pupils far and wide shone through. Amongst the projects he highlighted were Kide, which combines creative games and workshops to teach engineering and design skills to young kids, and Black County Atelier, a Birmingham-based prototyping workshop.
The highlight for us was getting a look at the CubePro, which looked highly impressive in action. With 20 print colours, a 10.8 x 10.45 x 9.5” build volume and the ability to print with 3 simultaneous colour options, it offers a highly flexible print capability and is certainly larger than any desktop model available. The 70 micron layer thickness allows for real finesse, while a simplified colour touch screen display offers what looks like a very intuitive interface. We’ll keep you up to date regarding this intriguing device once it goes on general release.