As my brain still tries to process everything from the 2016 Inside 3D Printing Conference Sydney, I thought a bit of a review might be a good way to try and both sort out my thoughts, and share with you some of the things on show and discussed throughout the 2 day conference. This conference was shared with National Manufacturing Week, which actually makes up the bulk of the exhibitor stands in the image above – 3D printing only filled up the very right thoroughfare from the Fuji Xerox sign to the back (yes there’s a bit of a disappointed tone in my voice here).
Above you can see the size of the 3D printing conference itself – which I have to admit was a real shock to see when I walked in on day 1 expecting at least 100 people or more. Having been to RAPID last year in Los Angeles (you can read about my experience here) I guess I just expected a lot more interest in 3D printing by now in Australia! Our slow uptake despite having a significant share of the worlds titanium, which could be used right here for 3D printing, was certainly a common theme for discussion from many speakers, as were the trends and predictions for continued worldwide growth after the latest Wohlers Report for 2016. But well done to all the Queenslanders who made the trip down, I couldn’t believe how often I would speak to someone only to find out they were from my part of the world! Perhaps Inside 3D Printing should look at running in Brisbane next time?
The good news is there were some really great speakers, one of my favourites being from keynote Paul D’Urso about his pioneering use of 3D printing in surgery over the last 20 years. What I liked most was his candid insight into the tensions between what surgeons and their patients want (for example custom-fitting implants that heal quickly and are comfortable, custom tools and guides for surgeons to provide more accurate surgery, and 3D prints from CT scans for pre-surgical analysis and practice which saves time in the operating theater) as opposed to regulatory bodies like the FDA in the United States who are getting in the way of innovations like 3D printing and basically enabling large corporations to own the monopoly on expensive standardised medical equipment. He has a great proactive attitude of just getting in and improving implants and tools himself using 3D printing, and has founded Anatomics as a way to reach out to other surgeons with the tools and products he and his team have developed. A great “just do it” message which was really motivating.
Education was also a big theme, with speakers like Ben Roberts from Modfab and Stuart Grover from 3D Printing Studios sharing their experiences around educating children and the general public about 3D printing through various training programs and initiatives here in Australia. However it seems that there is still far too little being done to educate people about 3D printing, and indeed many other emerging technologies, and perhaps the low attendance at this conference is evidence of how far we have yet to go when compared with the same Inside 3D Printing conferences around the world which seem to generate very high numbers of attendance. A re-work of high school curriculum’s was a well received solution at the conference, with traditional wood-work and metal-work style classes needing to be reinvigorated with digital technologies to provide appropriate high-value skills to students due to the rapidly changing nature of jobs, with reports suggesting that by the year 2020 5 million jobs will be made redundant due to robotics and automation. One of the hurdles argued by Ben Roberts was that most teachers either don’t have the skills to teach CAD and 3D printing, or learned them 5 or more years ago and are now outdated. As someone very keen to help enable the next generation of designers through my regular training programs and visits to schools, along with being a part of the Advance Queensland scheme, I think this is an extremely important issue to tackle right now. Anyway, on to some of the fun things.
Just like with RAPID, perhaps my favourite part of these conferences is the exhibition space – you never know what you’re going to see! Above on the left is the 3D printed jet engine from Monash University, Deakin University and Lab 22 (part of the CSIRO) which you may have seen in the media already. A lot of complexity with multiple 3D printing methods and materials used for the various parts, I just wish it was a working model! In the middle is a full-colour 3D printed hand, almost exactly the same size as mine. What’s unique about this print is that not only was it printed in 1 go, but that the outer “skin” material is soft and squishy like skin! This is a brand new printer from Fuji Xerox capable of printing with 5 material cartridges at once, and there is huge potential for this to create simulation models for training surgeons, or realistic copies of organs or tumors for surgeons to actually practice on prior to cutting open their patient. Lastly was a highly detailed SLS print of feathers as a fabric-like material at the 3D Printing Systems stand – just something a little more unusual compared to all the usual prints everyone normally displays.
Lastly just a few things that caught my eye throughout the other exhibits – on the left is one of the robotics displays for automating tasks like pick ‘n’ place – I think I could have a lot of fun with one of these next to my desk! In the middle was perhaps the most interesting display from my own research perspective, with CAD company PTC Creo beginning to enable Internet of Things devices to integrate into their software through the ThingWorx platform. Very much in line with my experiments using Rhino with the Grasshopper and Firefly plugins, however the addition of augmented reality is a really great touch – if you want to see a demo of their full system in action, check out their short 3 minute demo video of the bike being used in both the physical and virtual world. Lastly there were a few companies showing their CNC routers and laser cutters, some of them desktop in size – I just wish I could line them all up next to my 3D printer at home!
Overall a lot to soak up and plenty of new networks created with other attendees, I just hope next year there is an even bigger audience at the conference and even more amazing things happening.
– Posted by James Novak