I dropped in to visit the MOSI 3D printing exhibition at the weekend. This small exhibition displays a number of 3D printed items in various materials and gives information about some of the fields 3D printing is currently being used in. It looks like it is a good introduction to 3D printing for those who aren’t familiar with it.
One of the things I liked was that there were a range of materials on show. The vast majority of the exhibited items were the colourful plastic items that make up most of 3D printed items, but there were also items printed in metal- including a camera bracket printed for use on military aircraft and a bike.
One of the issues with promoting 3D printing is that there appears to be a large gulf between the useful and the frivolous. The majority of the items in this collection were the colourful plastic toy-like items that are what most people think of when 3D printing is mentioned. At the other end of the scale are the medical prints- items that can save or drastically improve the quality of life for a person.
There was a large collection of these in the exhibition included a prosthetic arm and a harness that had allowed a young child with problems moving her arms to be able to lift them. While there are frequent references to being able to print everyday items and replacement parts at the moment 3D printing is still largely a novelty. The change to 3D printing becoming everyday relies not just on 3D printers becoming more common, but on more people knowing how to use the design software.
This exhibition also showed some of the other benefits of 3D printing that fall between the toys and the lifesavers- such as giving an artist located in the “middle of nowhere in South Africa” the ability to print her commissions round the world- cutting down on shipping and environmental impact. There was also a video showing a stop motion animation that had been created using 3D printed bears.
An interesting omission from the exhibition was the creation process. There wasn’t a working 3D printer as part of the exhibition- which didn’t surprise me as it would probably be difficult to keep one functioning throughout the museum’s opening hours. What did surprise me was the lack of a video displaying the process, and there also wasn’t much mention made of use of CAD software to create the designs.
All in all, this exhibition is a basic overview of 3D printing that shows the bare essentials and is aimed at those who aren’t familiar with the subject. If you happen to be in the vicinity of MOSI and have 20 minutes or so to spare it’s worth dropping in to have a look.