In an Australian first, the University of Melbourne led by ITS Research, played host to the 2013 3D Printing Showcase, an event designed to bring the researchers, students and commercial entities active in 3d printing together in a single place. It was held in the School of Engineering’s Student Lounge and attracted 30 exhibitors and nearly 600 attendees.
A range of 3D Printers were on display, including a new machine shipped in especially from Sydney that creates full-colour 3d models from sheets of standard recyclable paper. A large range of Fused Deposition Modelling printers were up and running with hundreds of fantastic printed parts on display. Many lucky punters were even allowed to take some of these curiosities home. Most of the printers used plastics like ABS (the stuff they make Lego from) and PLA (a biodegradable plastic), but there were models made from paper, nylon, wood and even titanium! The titanium printers apparently were too big to bring in, but the parts they can make are stunning, both in strength and complexity.
A highlight of the day was when showcase partner Quantum Victoria donated hand-built 3d printers to 10 disadvantaged schools, presented by Vice Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis. The team from Quantum and some staff from the University of Melbourne worked alongside teachers from these schools to build these printers. This provides invaluable insight into the workings of these devices and the schools actually had a week to play with them before the showcase. On the day, the teachers and their principals attended and showed off what they had done in the short time they had. Several spoke to the media about the experience and were unanimous in their praise for the initiative.
Research featured strongly in the exhibition with displays from RMIT, Monash, Swinburne and La Trobe, alongside several displays from the University of Melbourne, including a 3D Printed Replica of Ned Kelly’s death mask. The potential of 3D Printing in research, both as a focus and as an enabling tool, is only just becoming clear. There were 3d printed robots, aeroplane parts, brains printed from MRI scans, a dog spine and even an articulated prosthetic hand. It is clear that we have only scratched the surface and no doubt there will be a much bigger research presence next year.
Complimenting the exhibition were a series of lightning talks ranging from the social impacts of 3D printing to the industrial and biomedical applications of the technology. Professor of Architecture Glenn Katz from Stanford University presented one of the talks live streamed from California. The underlying message from these talks and from the exhibitors themselves is that this technology will fundamentally change the research landscape, a change that is already apparent in many areas.
Almost all research institutions and hardware and software vendors engaged in digital fabrication in Victoria were represented at the showcase, providing excellent opportunities for engagement and collaboration.
Media interest in the event was much higher than expected, with Professor Glyn Davis and the showcase organising staff interviewed several times for various print, radio and TV news media. These include The Age Online, SBS’s The Feed and several ABC programs including 774 Evenings with Lindy Burns, The World Today with Rachel Brown, 702 Drive with Ellen Fanning and 774 Afternoons with Richard Stubbs. International 3D Printing website 3Ders also featured the story.
Watch the video: 3D Printing Showcase, 2013