At the forefront of design is 3D printing — a thrilling technology that gets its first stand-alone public show this weekend (October 20-21) in Clerkenwell, London’s buzzy new art district.
In very simple terms, 3D printing is a manufacturing process in which objects are made, one at a time, in a tank using liquid or powder forms of — for example — nylon, clay, metal or carbon fibre. A laser hardens these materials layer by ultra-thin layer, to produce objects of often breathtaking complexity.
'Visitors can have their body scanned to make a 3D-printed mini-me to take home'
Machines capable of 3D printing can be built big enough to create large pieces of furniture, but small versions sit on a worktop and cost about £1,000.
Instructions for making an item can be downloaded from the internet and fed into the machine’s computer. With a 3D printer in your home you can repair a household appliance by simply downloading some software and making the spare parts yourself.
Organiser of the 3D Printshow at The Brewery in EC1, is London entrepreneur Kerry Hogarth, who runs her own events business.
“This technology is so exciting,” she says. “People working in design, fashion, medicine, transport, architecture, archaeology and many more industries are using it. The show will demonstrate the latest technology in action, and how it can customise products for your home and daily life.”
The show will include fashion items produced by 3D printing, including shoes and dresses from top designers and a hat by celebrity milliner Stephen Jones. Teaching workshops will cover 3D printing and software, a gallery will display 3D-printed artworks, and a living room will be kitted out with 3D-printed furnishings. A band will play with 3D-printed instruments and visitors can have their body scanned to make a 3D-printed mini-me to take home.
A family workshop on Saturday (October 20) will let visitors customise a classic vehicle and take a model home. Home 3D printers will be on sale, as will small 3D-printed items such as toys, phone cases, bowls and jewellery. Or place an order for a larger item, such as a chair or a lamp.
From London, Assa Assuach, a 3D pioneer, will let you customise his brightly coloured range of small objects, from lemon squeezers to pens, while RCA graduate Matthew Plummer-Fernandez has developed a range of patterned 3D-printed vases and bowls. Forty other designers and makers from around the world will be showing off more tech tricks.
"Open source" - meaning free sharing on the internet - is a big buzz among 3D printing geeks. Designers learn about the software through web chat and some (such as Brad Geenen with his Gaudi chair) plan to offer their software designs free online, so that anyone can print their products, anywhere.
3D Printshow is at The Brewery, 53 Chiswell Street, EC1, this Saturday and Sunday (October 20-21). Admission £19.95, booking is advisable. Visit 3dprintshow.com.