Reflecting back on 2018, it was an exciting year for Additive Manufacturing – we saw the technology settling in into the ecosystem and becoming an integral part of the manufacturing process. Looking back at how designers used 3D printing and took advantage of the technology, one of the things that impressed me the most was the Milan Design Week exhibition of Swiss design school ECAL last April, ECAL Digital Market. By showing a full 3D printing manufacturing line, the school explored the possibilities of production on demand, showing the changing environment of manufacturing processes. However, as most designers only focus on shaping, materializing and presenting produces, the school did miss the opportunity to really close the circle. The project trusts the good intentions of the purchasers: while the unprotected digital .stl files are for personal use only, once bought (for €9) they can be printed endlessly.
Another impressive design, only possible with 3D printing, is the 3D-printed foldable lamp by Leon Laskowski (see top image). Apart from the led and its electrical components, the lamp is an intelligent example of what 3D printing really can do: the technology can replace expensive industrial tooling, extensive assembly lines or costly storage.
The past year we have shown many examples of corporations improving their manufacturing or repair lines with 3D printing. The blog post on 3D Printing for Trains, as well as the Saving Costs with 3D Printing post, are just two examples of improving manufacturing or product life which in my opinion show the growth potential of 3D printing technology in many ways beyond the 3D printed part itself.
With our resources and raw materials becoming scarcer every year we have to become smarter and more intelligent in what we do. Can you imagine what would happen if you put together designers, engineers, supply chain experts and material specialists in one room and giving them the opportunity of improving many more parts, products and processes? With 3D printing being integrated into manufacturing lines, I really hope that both manufacturing companies and designers will find each other easier. Designing, manufacturing objects or parts, as well as marketing products, is not a straight path; it comes in loops, with sharing knowledge, clever insights and clear communication. My motivation for LEO Lane is the promise of a better use of resources, clever design of parts and objects, sustainable use of materials and with an open attitude, holistic approach in the ecosystem of 3D printing and AM, I am convinced that we will all benefit from this technology for the good. Happy New Year!