Four Bristol University students were recently invited over to Shenzen, China, with the brief of taking 3D printing to a new level at one of the world’s leading hardware accelerators, HAX.
The engineer graduates were invited because of their invention, Omni Invent, a ‘workshop in a box’ that enables the creation of smart products on demand.
Having originated from a master’s degree project, the team – Alex Michaels, Ed Cooper, Jack Pearson and Glen Cahill – are looking to improve the strength, speed and functionality of 3D printing.
The result of their work was an automated machine that combines manufacturing, assembly and electronics fabrication.
Ed Cooper said: “This project began with the aim of elevating 3D printing above making crude ‘looks-like’ items. Over time it has grown into the Omni Invent, a desktop ‘workshop in a box’ that brings together the benefits of printing, assembly and electronics fabrication.
“We hope it will empower inventors to create custom products without needing a factory or a team of experts.”
What next for 3D printing?
Mark Harvey, Director of Bristol-based design company Amalgam Modelmaking Ltd said: “Bristol and the South West are in many ways, leading the field.
“3D printing has been around for longer than most people realise. Amalgam have been using it daily for well over twenty years, in which time it has evolved from a specialised and somewhat niche novelty to a real mainstream tool for the design and prototyping industries.
“Our main use for the technology revolves around being able to take designs from a virtual on-screen form into a tangible physical model in a matter of hours.
“3D printing is also gradually transforming into additive manufacturing. A process by which robust 3D prints in durable plastics and even metals allow designs that were previously difficult or impossible to produce to be produced with relative ease.”
The future of 3D printing is ever-changing and Harvey sees the industry continuously growing. He continues: “Just about all industries can benefit from 3D printing in some way. The ability to develop designs faster has obvious advantages. What it is exceptionally good at is customisation.
“Any industry that requires very small runs or one-offs can now produce individually tailored solutions to specific problems. Product development aside, Surgeons planning operations can do a dry run without risk. Prosthetics can be made to measure. Elite sports can have personally fitted equipment made lighter and stronger.”