3D printing has been touted as the second industrial revolution. Globally, current developments are simply staggering and in New Zealand local businesses must embrace the technology at entry level in order to keep up with the play.
One way business can get involved is by engaging with the tertiary sector. In Christchurch, the CPIT Foundation purchased a mid-range 3D printer for the institute last year. The intention is threefold; up skilling current students, staff research opportunities and industry collaboration.
Engineering, architectural studies and art & design students will have a working knowledge of the technology before they graduate. Tutors will extend local expertise through research projects, some of which will directly address industry challenges. Local business, who aren’t yet ready to invest in this technology, can use the 3D printer on a commercial basis to explore the cost and time-saving potential of rapid prototyping and sophisticated modelling.
3D printing has long since emerged from research departments where it started to evolve over two decades ago. Today it’s hard to keep pace with all the different approaches to producing a solid three-dimensional object from a CAD file and the novel applications to which 3D printers are being put – a team in Spain, for example, recently printed food.
Airbus is investing in a high-speed prototype machine that will produce complex titanium components at a speed 10 times higher than standard manufacturing. When you consider the ramifications of that development, not a long term aspiration but something planned for mid-2013, you understand that the technology has the potential to revolutionise manufacturing by creating sophisticated parts without the need for labour intensive factories.
Hence the ‘second industrial revolution’ predictions.
CPIT is still exploring the technology and viable commercial and research model structures, but the institute has already made 3D printing available to the local industry. From this starting point there should be interesting developments in the near future.