My favourite printer | PDD

My favourite printer


on July 30 2012

It seems that these days I can’t get through a meeting, tea round or drink at a pub without someone talking about 3D printing. So in this post I’ve asked some PDD-ers about their favourite 3D printing projects by people at the frontier of bringing this technology to the mainstream.

Of course, 3D printing is not that new. The first technologies emerged in the late 80s but it is not since developments in the last couple of years that we are now seeing something really exciting happen. This more recent progression is starting to impact consumer expectations around personalisation and even on our idea of visual aesthetic.

As an avid science fiction reader who has recently enjoyed Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age – I relish the idea that I could type a code into a microwave-like box and “bing”, a new cushion magically gets made (and made out of diamonds no less!). But at the same time, I also wonder what this means for us as a society of consumers; will people continually crave new things and forget what the joy of quality and natural materials feels like? I know I am getting ahead of myself here… we are a long way off from the days where we forget that paper is made from trees and bacon comes from pigs.

It is fascinating though, the contradiction that exists when considering food printing. Typically, people are completely averse to the idea that their food has been manufactured in any way, or that machines have been handling our food too much. However, as 3D printing becomes more accessible and designers and artist explore the boundaries of small scale manufacturing it seems that this prejudice around food will vanish as the ‘bot’ makers delight in printing edibles.

So it seems that this new way of making things might just have the power to make some significant changes to the way that we think about products and where they fit in our lives. But before we worry too much about consumer changes let us just delight in some of the amazing creations developed by some truly dedicated creatives. Here are some projects that have caught the imagination of people in the PDD studio.

Roger – Senior Consultant – Industrial Design…

“I’ve chosen the  Burritobot! A 3D printer that puts together your perfect burrito:

Image credit:  Burritobot by Marko Manrique

I like it because it works with multiple materials in a different way, mixing them together to create the users individual requirements rather than just printing in one medium or as other multi-material printers, in one material or the other.”


Josh – Industrial Design Consultant…

“This is  Markus Kayser’s Solar Sinter project – basically a solar powered 3D printer that focuses sunlight to ‘melt’ sand into glass:

Image credit:  Solar Sinter by Markus Kayser

In terms of sustainability, it’s using sand and desert which is pretty much what we’re turning much of our environment into (slowly but surely) and even though currently the objects produced are very low resolution, I believe that with development, this could produce desirable objects.


 Image credit:  Solar Sinter by Markus Kayser

So in short I think it’s a really elegant and simple approach to producing something quite special from something very ordinary and super accessible.”

Andrew – Senior Consultant – Engineering Design…

“The shape of man-made objects is largely dependent upon the manufacturing processes available. My favourite thing about 3D printing is the ability to produce complex, organic shapes without the complex tooling and technical knowledge normally required with it. Imagine trying to create some of these shapes in any other process than  nano laser printing:


Image credit:  A 285 µm racecar, printed at the Vienna University of Technology

Small things are all well and good, but how about  organically shaped living accommodation? Getting furniture to fit may be a problem…but then you could always print it to fit:


Image credit:  Sand Evaquation by D shape

Not technically a  3D printer, but I’d love to see this sort of thing evolving to large scale machines that could be moved anywhere and shape things in situ:


Image credit:  Hexapod Robot CNC router by Matt Denton

As 3D printing is becoming a more wide-spread and affordable so will the attention 3D scanning. This is an old example of  DIY 3D scanning but I’ve always been fond of it, probably because it’s based on milk and Lego:

Image credit:  Milkscanner by Fiezi

In summary, what I find most exciting about 3D printing is that this is a manufacturing technique only at the beginning of its evolution. Over the next few decades it will be intriguing to see where this technology goes. Will it have the impact to change industries and even economies beyond recognition? Currently there doesn’t seem to be a limit to what will eventually be possible.”

Matt – Senior Consultant – Engineering Design…

“ThreeDom? 3D Freedom…Personal 3D printers have the potential to free individuals to create their own devices and also the potential to free individuals.

We are used to cyber-attacks and viruses compromising security in the virtual world,  here is an example of security being compromised in the real world. One hacker has recreated the key to police handcuffs. This file sharing of scanned key data for handcuffs can allow prisoners to print the keys to their own freedom!”

And finally, something from me, Milly – Design Insight Consultant…

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have figured out a way to use sugar, yes sugar, to 3D print templates that are later injected with blood vessels, creating working vascular networks.

Image credit: Photo still from a video by  University of Pennsylvania

This method is allowing incredibly small and detailed structures for the body. I think that is going to be a really exciting application in the future – just think about the personalised hip replacement, or a new nose perhaps?!”

We would love to hear from you about your favouring 3D printing projects our there so give us a tweet @pddinnovation!