My mind was blown last week when I saw a 3D printer in action at the Design Museum, during the opening of new exhibition ‘The Future is Here: a New Industrial Revolution’.
The exhibition, a collaboration with the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, explores the changes in manufacturing that are transforming our world. It looks at how the boundaries between designer, maker, and consumer are disappearing. It delves in to what exactly drives innovation and how it can lead to increased productivity and economic growth.
As you first enter the exhibition a neon sign flashes above your head, from the future was here to the future is here, which for me sums up the exhibition; when you can’t imagine how design could go any further but it does, in this case a future where the consumer can now design their own product and even create it.
The main highlight of the exhibition for me was the 3D printer, although we were unable to watch the whole process as it takes four and a half hours to print. The printer can form layers as thin as 25 microns (one millionth of a metre) with details as small as 300 micronin, a build volume of 125 x 125 x 165mm. In an experimental move the museum will house the first ‘factory’ of its kind where visitors can discover how 3D printing works and witness live production. In a small workshop area, dedicated to digital fabricating projects, technicians will operate a small laser etcher or cutter, as well as the 3D printers. They will produce various objects for visitors to pick up and assemble and a gallery area will display objects made during the exhibition.
I also found the Makiedolls interesting; These action dolls are designed by the consumer, and can be adapted to their own specifications; they can choose the eyes, nose, jaw, smile, hair, clothes, hands and feet online. They are then 3D printed, with space for owners to experiment with fitting LEDs, RFIDs and battery packs, voicechips, Bluetooth and Arduino.
Mass customisation is a central story, from the 3D dolls to trainer manufacturers offering personalised shoes on a global scale. Other exhibits include a crowd-sourced sofa and micro community manufacturing.
The Future is Here: a New Industrial Revolution is open until 29 Oct