Another great use of 3dprinting

I had the great pleasure of interviewing leading educator, James Novak to learn more about his 3dprinted bike he designed. James is a lecturer at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia and has gained world wide recognition for his bicycle he developed.

The great thing about this designs is it shows how far 3dprinting can be pushed with a creative mind. To read the blog please click here.DSCF6909.JPG

Want to learn how 3d printing works in space?

I wrote this quick blog on the to show how 3d printing in space is so different from printing on earth. What we don’t even think about when designing could prove deadly for astronauts. Check it out here

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3d print your own open source toy robot by Cannybots.

Remember Scalectrix as a young child? Hours of fun were had racing toy cars around race tracks as fast as possible. The game never seemed to get old. Now you can take it to the next step with Cannybots open source toy robots. The idea is simple, download and 3d print the designs for the robot, then you can programme the electronics through the use of simple programming interfaces such as – Arduino, Blockly, Python, mbed and Scratch. The robot is controlled by a powerful single board controller called the ‘Bluebrain’. 05_Cannybots-46This ‘Bluebrain’ incorporates an ARM processor, Bluetooth (4.0) and motor controllers that when programmed allow the robot to follow a line or track (usually in the format of a racetrack design). The great feature about Cannybots is you can control it from your smartphone, tablet, PC or even raspberry pi and you can even 3d print the designs yourself. In an age where programming and the study of 3dprinting is taking precedent in education, Cannybots can really help drive the teaching and learning of new technologies within our schools. Currently in the UK, there is a national drive for teaching children how to 3d print, programme computer chips and how to study new and emerging technologies. Educators are always looking at new innovative ways to capture the imagination of students and this seems a great project to work on with classes. Cannybots creator Anish Mampetta explains how “The openness of the platform lets secondary students delve deeper — peeking behind their visual programming to see the Arduino code that actually runs on the robots — and physically taking apart and reassembling their Cannybots to see how the components fit together and communicate. Schools with 3D printers can 3d print their own cannybots as well as develop custom designs for the bots using free design software like AutoDesk Fusion or Google SketchUp.”06_Cannybots-59

Even if you don’t have a 3d printer you can easily purchase a kit from their website so this is truly open to everyone. Along with this a forum on the Cannybots website where users can discuss new ideas and collaborate and share how they are working with Cannybots. There is even a discussion thread about how a programmble hovercraft has been developed. With a kickstarter campaign planned for mid june, Cannybots is really helping to drive the 3d print world forward. To see the Robots in action click the image above.  To download the files you click here and to visit the website click on the link below;

3dprinting really does Rock!


Want to start 3dprinting but not sure where to begin? First place for many is thingiverse for a free download, however what about when you want to design something yourself? There’s only one real option, spend hours learning a CAD package and try to attempt your design. Keep it simple and you might succeed, but anything more complex than a book mark and it could take up hours of your time. Imagine having a Ferrari and needing someone else drive it for you? This would get frustrating after a while. One of my first blogs was about project shapeshifter by Autodesk. This allowed anyone with no design experience to create complex designs in seconds ready for 3dprinting. Then there was Makersempire 3dprinting modelling app for tablets aimed at younger children allowing models to be created by finger commands. Now one of thingiverses’ top designers Mark Durbin has developed a programme called The aim of the programme is to easily create 3dprintable models that are high quality and image based. Got a favourite holiday snap or a precious memory? Then you can immortalise it in 3dprint with this great programme in seconds.

The creator Mark Durbin explained how he first found out about 3dprinting after watching tomorrows world (BBC) in 1994 and later on in 2010 he bought a makerbot first generation ‘thingomatic’ after seeing Bre Petis on the cover of Make magazine. Mark actually purchased the 44th thingomatic ever made. A true founding father of 3dprinting! He explained the inspiration behind 3drocks/lithothane was to ‘help with the process of converting two dimensional images into three dimensional shapes for 3dprinting’. In line with the open source community that helped grow 3dprinting, Mark said he wanted to ‘make the tools as accessible as possible and make the source code available for modification by others’.2015-02-11_20.47.26_preview_featured

After asking Mark his views on the direction of 3dprinting he explained, ‘I think it’s stalled a bit, the RepRap movement has had and still has lots of ideas, but there doesn’t appear to be any real weight behind it.  Lots of small (and some large) companies are coming in to try and claim some of the ideas as their own and protect them commercially, which has tended to close down some of the collaboration and openness that I’ve seen in the past.  That’s not to say that it’s stopped, but it seems that every company that can claim “3D printing” is in some way associated with their product jumps on the band waggon which tends to ‘cheapen’ the general concept. There are still lots of ‘good guys’ out there who acknowledge the open source roots of their business and try to keep their commercial activities from damaging that.  I’m not against commercial activity in this space, I’m all for it, but a lot of it tends to be profit focussed and therefore aimed at the people with deeper pockets. I still think cheap/reliable home/school 3D printers are a great way to allow developing minds to express their ideas in an accessible way that plays to the ‘I want it now’ philosophy that seems to prevail’.SophieMusic_preview_featured

As an educator of 3dprinting this is totally in line with the reality. In the classroom one of the main stumbling blocks to the adoption of this by high school students is cost. Many can’t afford the $1000 – $2000 for the main branded machines and taking a risk on a cheaper unknown relatively new manufacturer is one that many parents of these students can’t do. Also the ‘I want it now’ philosophy resonates with high school students in most aspects of their digital dominated lives.

With such a great programme available for free and with such ease of use 3drocks/lithothane has great potential to help grow 3dprinting and allow easy access for users to create unique designs personalised to themselves. Mark said he has many ideas planned that can ‘extend’ on this and they will allow users ‘to be creative without a huge investment in learning’. Sounds like a great plan and one I will follow carefully. The images shown are some examples of the designs created from 3drock/lithothane. The sketch above is an image drawn by Mark’s daughter that he then turned into a 3dprinted light feature using the programme.

To check out 3drocks/lithothane click the link below and start creating! Thanks for this great programme Mark!



A breath of fresh air in a crowded 3dprinting market

I first saw this printer at the 2013 3dprintshow in London and it caught my eye immediately. This was different from other printers. This actually had good design as the core feature. Many times when looking at 3dprinters you see a strange attempt at a cross between a microwave and some space age structure. But in this case you simply see good design. All printers essentially do the same thing, print objects, but many neglect the product design aspect as this is usually an after thought, and in my opinion is a contributing factor to why the mainstream consumer are not yet embracing the technology. Many 3dprinters you just would not contemplate them in your homes. Some are even an eye sore. The beethefirst printer is different. Design is what sets it apart, this printer looks like it is right out of Apple’s design studio. Jonny Ive once said his aim was to ‘Design out the design’. The design has to be so good that it blends seamlessly with the user and is almost an afterthought. Here we have a 3dprinter that fits this ethos. It looks stunning and is timeless in its appearance. This printer has won many awards including best ‘Prosumer printer’ and best ‘consumer printer’ at the 3dprintshow 2014 and is gaining a reputation as one of the top players in the industry by being awarded the ‘Rookie of the year’ in Make Magazine. There’s a reason for this as well. This printer is by far the most user friendly 3dprinter that I have used and also the most consistent and reliable. From opening the box to 3dprinting the first part was 20 minutes. The user flow of setting this up, calibrating, loading the filament and printing the first part was flawless. A major issue with printers is the calibration of the bed, in this case it was as easy as clicking a mouse button. Everything about this printer has been designed with the user as the focus. Even down to the packaging of the product. When you open the box you are met with a message from beethefirst and the excitement of the unboxing process is like being a child at Christmas again. Every step of the experience brings happiness.


I met with Diogo Quental at the 3dprintshow and the whole team have to be the most friendly bunch of people I have met in 3dprinting. At their stand was free hugs and ‘beescuits’, what more can you ask for! Friendliness and trust goes along way in the world of business. Diogo outlined some of the plans for the future of Beethefirst that includes expansion into the education market with a partnership with Nautilus and also myself as a Beta tester of their printer. I have put this printer through its paces for the past few weeks and it has delivered exceptional results. There used to be a time with 3dprinting when it was hit or miss if a print would be successful. Since printing on the Beethefirst I have not had one print failure and I have printed over 200 parts without needing to calibrate the bed.

As an educator myself, the area of 3dprinting in schools is still an uptapped market with no one clear printer taking the lead. The reason for this I believe is reliability and usability. I think Beethefirst could be a contender to lead in this market. Teachers and students need a 3dprinter that will work time and time again and not have to worry about if a print will be successful. Then there is the fact that this printer is a great case study for good design. When I teach Design and Technology/Product Design lessons, the design of a product is just as important as the functionality side of it. I inform the students that if a product doesn’t look good then it probably won’t sell. If users aren’t attracted to it then the likelihood is it won’t succeed. This looks good and you would be proud to have it on your desk.


With more models planned for the future the direction of Beethefirst is extremely exciting and is one to watch closely. At the 2013 3dprintshow they had one small desk with a 3dprinter exhibiting. At the 2014 3dprintshow they dominated the show floor with the biggest stand. What will 2015 bring?

For more information visit their website

The ‘Google’ of 3dprinting files? 3dfilemarket interviews CEO Seena Rejal

The ‘Google’ of 3dprinting files?
When we search for a website we usually head for Google, but where do you go when you want to search for a STL file for 3dprinting? With model repositories growing in number every day, actually finding what you want can be a hard task and you might even have to search many different sites before get to discover the model you want. aims to solve this and become the number one platform on the internet for searching 3dprinting files. is different in that the site indexes the actual file and not the ‘tags’ of a model listing, meaning that you are far more likely to find what you need as the search is based upon the shape of the file. Currently have indexed files from all the major file repositories, including the, thingiverse, youimage and shapeways.

With announced as a partner for the Autodesk spark platform, there are exciting times to come for the future of 3dprinting files. We caught up with the CEO Seena Rejal for a quick interview about the aims of the and where they anticipate the future of 3dprinting will be in the next decade. Seena Rejal has a decorated career in manufacturing having gained a PhD in manufacturing from the University of Cambridge. He then spent time working with the founder and CEO of in the US as well as working for the Clinton Foundation. He started 3D Industries in 2012 and is set to become a major player in searching 3D content.

What is the ultimate aim of wants to index every 3D model on the web. It wants to be the place you go to to find any shape and form. The way you query the physical world around you through its shape. It wants to create a transparent and fully searchable 3D online universe, where everyone is able to share, but also protect and attribute their work.

With the new partnership with Autodesk how will this enhance your end goals?

As a global leader in 3D software, Autodesk is a formidable player in the emerging 3D printing landscape. Its entry into the space offers exciting opportunities to shape the developing field. Having such an organisation as a partner will help us set the foundations and standards for the open and transparent 3D universe we envisage. Their followers, users and ecosystem partners will accelerate and boost the rate at which we can order the web’s available 3D content.

Do you see the mass consumer adopting 3dprinting similar to inkjet printers?

Eventually, but not in the short to mid-term. A mix of technology developments and industry business models will bring about the price points and demand for such adoption. It has to have real utility and solve real pain in the home. This could be in the form of fabricating replacement components for every day white goods, or immediate fulfilment of particular domestic needs. It might also be for educational purposes. At that point, a printer per home will make sense. But we are certainly moving in that direction and it is a matter of time – we are waiting for that killer application and a killer pain being solved.

Where do you think the 3dprinting industry will be in 5 years?

I think we would have progressed distributed production at the level of the high street shop. Most stores will have a backroom 3D printer, with rapid 3D printing speeds and high quality output, that can pretty much fulfil most requirements for customisation of smaller devices / products, as well as immediate supply of replacement components.

I think industrial use will also have developed extensively for high-value applications.

3D literacy will be widespread, with handheld devices such as smartphones, being 3D capable in terms of scanning and visualisation.

If these predictions are correct then we are sure set for some exciting times in 3dprinting. For more information and to visit click the logo.



3dprinting story run by published 8th and 9th December over two days


We recently spent some time with Philip Cotton, winner of the 3D Printshow educational excellence award for two consecutive years, what follows is part one of a two part interview with Phil.

We begans by asking, “How and why did you first become interested in 3D Printing?”

I first became interested in 3D printing after stumbling across it on the internet. I found the cubify website in its beta stages and decided to look further into the technology. After researching it in more detail I knew that this would be huge and would have massive potential in the classroom. Also on a personal level the technology interested me.

The idea that I could manufacture iPhone cases and other everyday objects in my own home was immensely powerful and one that I wanted to experiment with. I pitched the idea of 3D printing to the head teacher and the school bought a 3D printer (about 4 years ago).

I started to experiment with the printer and see what would be viable to design and print in lessons and then started integrating it into student projects. After the early stages success of 3D printing in lessons I decided to buy one for home so I could keep experimenting in school holidays and weekends. With a 3D printer at home and one in school I really started to see the benefits of this technology as every time you 3D print you embark upon a learning curve and it can become quite ‘addictive’.

There is something quite satisfying about designing and making your own products in the comfort of your own house.

What is the primary benefit of using the technology in Schools?

The main benefit of using 3D printing in schools is the ability to make high quality products that previously you could not have made in schools. Also it keep students current with industry as the technology is still emerging and changes are rapidly occurring.

This allows for rich learning opportunities every time the technology advances. When 3D printing students have to really engage in higher level thinking and it can really stretch students beyond their comfort zone. Designing on 3DCAD is not easy and is a real challenge that involves using Maths alongside design and ICT.

Then throw into the equation the operating of the machines and materials knowledge and you have a true STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) activity. With a shortage of engineers in the UK 3dprinting has the ability to help inspire students into engineering subjects and potentially future careers. If we educate students about 3dprinting then we are preparing them to gain employment in the fastest growing area of technology in the next decade. 3D printing will effect almost every area of manufacturing, design, medicine and engineering so the sooner we start integrating it into the curriculum the better.

What is main challenge to exploiting 3D within education?

There are a few challenges to really exploiting 3D printing in education. One of these is teachers having the knowledge and ability to actually teach 3dprinting to whole classes. From experience it is not the easiest thing to teach. The teacher needs to have an almost expert knowledge of the CAD packages they teach and this takes time to learn. One thing teachers don’t have is time……  Many teachers have also not had the background in CAD to be able to pass this onto students. However, there are many free courses available where teachers can learn about the basics of 3DCAD and then pass this onto students and with Autodesk making their software free to all teachers and students this will greatly help with this issue.

Another challenge is the functionality and reliability of the machines. 3D printers get clogs and blockages that can be highly frustrating. The worst thing is seeing a large print that has taken hours to print fail in the final 10% due to filament clogging or the print warping of the bed. Part of 3D printing at the moment is having to strip the printers down to unblock extruders, sometimes this can take hours and a high level of technical ability to fix. Then there is the speed of the printers, this is improving but still has a long way to go. In my personal opinion I think we have hit a wall with how far we can go with FDM technology. With the patents expiring on SLS printing I expect within five years the prices of these printers will drastically reduce and they will be mainstream and eventually replace FDM.

Then finally there is the cost of 3D printers. With the technology advancing so fast and newer models released on an annual basis by companies, it can be difficult for schools to spend potentially two thousand pounds on a machine that in a year will be replaced by a better model. I personally bought a solidoodle 2 one year ago and since then Solidoodle has released five new printers…….


Yesterday we published the first part of our interview with Phil Cotton, winner of the 3D Print show educational excellence award for two consecutive years, where he discussed some of the benefits and challenges for 3D printing within the educational environment you can read more here

Today we continue our conversation with Phil, where he reveals amongst other things, who from within the 3D printing community he’d most like to invite for lunch!

Phil, what are you proudest of and why?

The main thing I am proudest about is to be recognised for my efforts in 3D printing by be awarded the 3D print show educational excellence award in two consecutive years. This has only be possible through teaching students that have appreciated the potential of the technology and also through having the support of my school ‘Ladybridge High School’. The designs that have been produced by my students have blown me away and they are proof of how if allowed to experiment with 3dprinting they will embrace it and push their capabilities as far as possible. One of my students has recently design a product and then sent it to shapeways to be professionally 3dprinted as he has an idea to start a business and is prototyping his idea. Amazing when you think he is only 15. Another student has designed products that have featured on These success stories from students are what making 3D printing in education all the more rewarding.

Can you tell us what one thing would you like to see within the 3D ecosystem over the next 12 months and why?

Over the next 12 months I would like to see cheaper and more reliable machines that have increased speed, so that when teachers are 3D printing they know that their prints will always work. (When we print a document from word/excel we don’t sit there thinking hmmm, will the printer actually print the whole document or will it only print half and then the printer nozzle will block or the paper will jam. Over my lifetime of printing thousands of documents from ink jet and laser printers I can only think of a handful of times where the paper has got jammed. If we can replicate this in 3D printing then that would be a major achievement). I would also like to see a ‘direct print’ feature with wireless streaming so that saving files onto SD cards and USBs and then having to insert them into the printer to print become a thing of the past.

A nice feature would be for a 3DCAD package aimed at high school students be released so that the transition into 3D Design is easier and not so daunting. The main thing about this is that is it free for schools and students.

Finally Phil, If you could invite anyone within the 3D & AM community to lunch, who would it be and why?

Hmmm….. There are so many people. I think it would have to be Joshua Harker. At the 2013 3D print show I attended his presentation on 3D printing and was hugely impressed by his history as an artist in the 3D printing world. He really has been at the forefront of pushing the boundaries of 3D printing and the calibre of his art work is world class.

His ‘Cranis Anatomica Filigre Skull’ and his ‘Quixotic Divinity Headdress’ are like nothing else out there and I feel that his designs are the best in the world. Along with this he has a story and background of accredited as the first person to break the design and manufacturing threshold of 3D printing through his ‘Tangle sculpture series’.

Without designers and artists pushing the technology out of its comfort zone I really don’t think we would be where we are now. As well as this he seems just a great down to earth guy with a passion for 3D printing unlike no other.

Masters student pushing the boundaries of 3dprinting


3dprinting and slip casting? When I first read this on twitter I had to investigate further. Being a follower of this technology for the past four years I have seen many different uses and applications of the 3dprinting. However, the use of 3dprinting in slip casting is a first and the results of this new technique is truly stunning. The concept is being pioneered by graduate designer and masters student Jade Crompton (Liverpool Hope University) Picture1. The idea behind Jade’s use of 3dprinting is to design and 3dprint a mould, then plaster cast into the mould, then using this final plaster mould for slip casting. So in more simple terms, 3dprint a mould, cast this mould, then use the mould to make the final design. The outcome is not 3dprinted, but the process revolves around using 3dprinting as a core stage in the manufacturing process. After catching up with Jade she described how she wanted to “create a 3Dprinted mould in plaster” that would allow her to create whatever design she wanted. With 3dprinting in plaster not at a developed stage yet and still more research needed, Jade decided to create a 3dprinted mould using a Z-Corp powder printer.  This would then allow her to achieve her ultimate aim of slip casting her solidworks designs.

When asked about the positives of using 3dprinting in her work she explained, “The positives to 3D printing the mould for a mould is the time I’ve saved not having to create the model for producing the mould, claying up the model and not having to work out the seams for the mould part.IMG_0105 The mould should be very accurate and I should be left with the perfect slip casting. Another benefit is that I can create multiple moulds from the 3D printed moulds without the prints showing any signs of wear, which is ideal in a mass production scenario. This is something I am very interested in.”Garnet Mould

Looking at the outcome of this process is exceptional in terms on innovation. With the use of 3dprinting to create ‘moulds for moulds’ adds another dimension in terms of the creative use of additive manufacturing technology. The outcomes speak for themselves. Jade has plans in the future to study a PhD in Digital design with the aim of researching a way of producing a 3dprinter that can print with liquid plaster rather than powder, allowing her to create moulds that are ‘slip cast ready’. Picture2This would then allow her to test and prototype designs much faster that her current process and allow for even greater creativity. I have personally seen and blogged about many different examples of 3dprinted art work and sculpture, however this technique is unique.  3Dprinting evolves through designers, artists and engineers pushing the boundaries and taking risks with the technology and this is an example of how in the right hands, 3dprinting is a powerful creative tool for innovation. Picture3

Jade is currently exhibiting her work at Cornerstone Gallery – Liverpool Hope University – 24th November – 10th December and then the Sara Preisler Gallery – The Custard Factory, Birmingham – June 2015.

For more information and to contact Jade please visit her website

Makers Empire – A revolution in 3dprinting education

3dprinting with no experience?  No cad modelling skills required? Anyone can create a 3dprintable design in under 5 minutes? Sounds like a dream come true and that is now reality with the release of Makers Empire 3dprinting software. One of the biggest barriers to elementary/primary school children learning how to 3dprint is the cad element. Teaching children how to 3d CAD model is not as easy as paint by numbers. Having taught CAD lessons to groups of 20 plus teenagers they can be tough lessons that are long and drawn out, with lots of challenges from differing groups of students. The thought of embarking upon this topic with even younger children is a daunting idea. I have always thought to myself there must be an easier way to start students off with 3d design at a younger age. Makers Empire allows users with no experience of 3d design, to create models from scratch in a matter of minutes. The software is based around an app that uses finger commands through touch screen to draw and manipulate shapes into 3d that can be exported for 3dprinting. The process is simple, you draw a shape, extrude the shape, then resize and alter the design through the easily usable interface that anyone of any age can use. No mouse or computer desktop is needed, as this has been optimised for tablet use and is available on both Apple App store and Google Play. In the time of more and more schools turning to personalised tablet based learning, this is a perfect time to release the app. After speaking to Co-founder Lap Leung, he explained how, “Makers Empire have spent a lot of time testing and developing the 3d design app and learning program in classrooms with teachers to make sure it achieves learning outcomes.” As a teacher, this is music to my ears, many times organisations or companies want to promote their 3dprinting technology, but have never actually considered teachers or students views. If you want something to succeed in the classroom then the first point of call is the teacher and students for testing and development. Children don’t lie and as we have all probably experienced in our time and teachers can be brutally honest.

Easy to follow lesson plans.’
Another great feature of Makers Empire is the international appeal of the app. The teaching resources have been written to meet both the UK and Australian national curriculum with clear and concise lesson plans that are easy to understand and have easily achievable learning outcomes. This is the most important feature of all, it’s clear what the students will learn and it’s clear how they will learn it! The activities are pitched correctly to the relevant age range and there is minimal preparation needed by the teacher. Also, this app is fun! It has its own personality and gives users instant feedback when you have successfully achieved something new. So many times my students have battled with CAD packages and hit the CAD modelling wall. This app puts an end to those frustrations and it firmly puts children in control.


‘To be trialled in 20 NYC schools’

A trial is planned with 20 schools in NYC using the software, along with current many Australian schools embracing the technology. With rapid expansion on the horizon and a UK launch coming soon Makers Empire could soon be a regular in most schools. The feedback from children has been fantastic, Co Founder Lap explained, “The students are wonderful. The first time we worked with the students, they were in grade 6. We were not quite sure what to expect. We never doubted their ability but in that first pilot class, how quickly they picked up their iPads, made their first pendant/keychain design in Makers Empire 3D design app – to this day still astonishes me! Goose bump kind of stuff. Then later we also tried with a reception and grade 1 class. It was just amazing. Children come to class familiar with tablets already and when we walk them through the Makers Empire design app within moments they were ready for more advanced design suitable for older children. And that was coming from students in reception and year 1! It is a real privilege for our team to be able to help young children – providing them design tools and curriculum for 3D printing to help harness their natural talents and achieving learning outcomes.”

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‘3dprinted Maths avatar’

As well as student feedback being the most important, the teachers have embraced this software and are seeing new opportunities for using 3dprinting to enhance the learning across the curriculum. One teacher allowed their grade 2 students to create their own maths avatar designed in Makers Empire app and then 3D printed it to become their maths champion. Another teacher used it in their buddy program. Older primary school students would work together with their younger buddy in a lower grade and design their own 3D model. A great way to collaborate with different age groups!

‘Better tools, near instant creation of their designs’

When asked about plans for the future and 3dprinting in general, co-founder Lap explained he would “like Makers Empire to inspire students with the possibilities of creativity and innovation using 3D printing all around the world. They have enormous talent and by enabling them to be innovative and different they will build a world that we cannot imagine and that is exciting! 3D printing is going to be challenged by these young leaders because their imagination and possibilities are endless. They are going to demand better tools, near instant creation of their designs, select from any materials known and unknown to humankind and in various forms and properties that do not even exist today. I can’t wait, it is definitely an exciting time and I am really looking forward to seeing more creative expression from the next generation coming through. Their design skills and knowledge, communicating abstract ideas will be far more powerful than we know today that will enable them to tackle even bigger and more complicated challenges in the future.”

Overall this app, and the teachers portal that supports the app, is truly a game changer. Every child can succeed regardless of ability and they can embark upon a 3dprinting journey of a lifetime. 3D CAD modelling has just becoming exciting! For more information about Makers Empire click the logo below.


Bioprinting and 3Dprinting – a potential lifesaving use of the technology.

There have been many innovative uses of 3dprinting that make the news almost every day. 3Dprinting cars and even houses are just a few examples of how fast the technology is emerging. It is widely recognised that the medical industry stands to make great strides from the use of 3dprinting through research and development and this was evidenced at the 3Dprintshow in London. During the 3Dprintshow there was a stand in the ‘3dprinted hospital’ section that caught my eye over all other exhibitors. There was no flashy corporate stand dominating the event hall, no pushy sales reps promoting their printers, just a desk with a 3dprinter and an information board explaining the project, along with Alan J Faulhner-jones. Alan is a PHD student from Heriot Watt University, who won the Inspirational individual award in the 3dprintshow annual awards ceremony. Alan won the award for creating a ‘bioprinter’ that is capable of 3dprinting human cells with the aim of using the printer to hopefully one day help cure some of the worlds most common diseases. alanFJ-02

Alan explained that, ‘New drug development can take more than 10 years and only around 16% of drug candidates that begin pre-clinical testing are approved for human use. Some of this low success rate is due to the different responses of humans and animal models used for testing. At Heriot-Watt we are working towards creating micro versions of human organs from human cells, such as the liver. These so called “micro-tissues” should produce the same responses that the entire organ would, but on a much smaller scale.’ The shear scale of this is truly ground breaking, if we could 3dprint living organs to test out new drugs, this could throw the medical industry on its head and really advance the fight against some of the most deadly diseases we so often encounter. alanFJ-01

Alan’s background is Robotics & Cybertronics for which he gained a Masters degree at Heriot Watt University and he has since used this expertise to create the Bioprinter that forms the core element of his PHD studies. Alan explained that, ‘It’s a continuous development cycle, I started my PhD in 2010 and I’m currently working on the 4th generation machine now.  The biggest challenges lie with the biology; sometimes cells don’t do what you expected they would do.’ Also, in the first stages of application of the printer Alan is aiming for ‘liver micro-tissues for drug testing’ and in theory the technology could then be applied to generating tissues to repair the body using patients own cells to avoid rejection.

Artificial Liver Cells 07

This really is ground breaking use of 3dprinting technology and in terms of impact, it could have the biggest of them all. Alan really has a special project and I wish him all the best with this as I really believe that this will help the masses. Many people ask me how would 3dprinting benefit them in their lives, well this project right here could benefit us all in the future. Definitely one to watch.

For more information check out Alan’s 3dprintshow page