Ideas are the most important in 3D printing
Heikki Hietala and Marjo Linnasalmi 16.9.2019

3D printing is both practical and surprising. There are multiple 3D solutions in design, healthcare, people’s homes, almost everywhere you can imagine. The basics of 3D printing are quite simple, after all. Everyone can learn it.

 

Inventions for everyday life and catastrophes

 

3D printing can help daily life. In our innovation courses at Haaga-Helia students have built devices for growing automatically salad and chili, for example. The device recognizes when the soil is too dry and adds water to the plant when needed. Another student designed once an entire alarm system for his home, based on very cheap but robust parts that are easily available.

Everyone knows how frustrating it is when a small part of a household machine breaks up. With 3D printing it is possible to print spare parts to machines, and give a longer life to the machine in this way.

It is even possible to build houses with 3D printing. This could be very useful in catastrophe areas. Soon it will be possible to print a house in one hour. The 3D techniques also enable the construction of more developed houses: the printer is in a sea container, movable by truck, and the electric wiring and water pipes are inserted into the print as it is being done.

Last spring, the French game company Ubisoft caught the world’s attention when it offered to support financially the reconstruction Notre Dame of Paris. The cathedral had been ravaged in a massive fire in April.

The support of Ubisoft was not only financial. The company also suggested to give their 3D model of the cathedral to the help of the reconstruction. Game industry uses 3D modeling a lot in game design, and models such as Ubisoft’s cathedral can be of extremely high accuracy.

 

Solving problems is inspiring

 

In our 3D printing classes the teacher is not an authority. We plan and ideate together. The student can find it very liberating, if the teacher does not know the answer. At first, however, students might wonder “how come the teacher does not know the solution?” How should I know it? It is their ideas, which we can develop further together. The question no longer is, “what can I do”, but rather, “what do I want to do”.

In Haaga-Helia, 3D can also help in studying other subjects. Students from the Business Programmes Unit have built an escape room, for which IT students have designed robot locks with the help of 3D modeling.  In order to get out of the room the gamer has to clear a profit and loss account. It is a kind of double learning: Some learn 3D modeling and printing while others learn accounting with the help of 3D inventions.

 

3D will bloom in the future

 

Nowadays there is more and more 3D related data available. People help each other in 3D web forums and the discussion is mostly very friendly and supportive.

The printing materials develop very fast. It is now possible to print with biomaterials, such as wood or PLA, which is derived from corn starch. These are biodegradable. Recently the price of metal printing has gone down vigorously due to some fundamental patents expiring, and competition is pushing prices down. Bioprinting takes big steps forward in medical research labs and will be mainstream within five to ten years.

3D printing is already available to the public at libraries and here at Haaga-Helia we have dozens of students who know how to design and print. Recently we got a new handheld scanner for our 3D laboratory. Now we can scan a human being from head to toes, and if needed, either print the model or take it further into a game engine, for example.

Keeping up with the ever-speeding progress in 3D is actually very tough!

Heikki Hietala and Marjo Linnasalmi

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