3D printing sounds like technology from the future. The ability to print virtually any object from your home or office desktop was a pretty surreal concept to grasp and when I had the chance to interview Kyle Hermenean this weekend I found out exactly how revolutionary it is.
Kyle is one of the visionaries behind Machina Corp., an Albertan 3D printing company that works to make 3D printing a more accessible and affordable commodity. Kyle is also a speaker at Edmonton’s upcoming TEDxEdmonton conference and he explained to me exactly what 3D printers can do.
In short, 3D printers can work with any material that can be ground down into a powder and mixed with resin, to form a filament. This means that plastic, wood and even metal can all be used to create anything from house-hold objects to high-grade medical prosthetics. But more notably than the range of objects it can create is that these printers are incredibly expedient, efficient and even environmentally friendly. Instead of creating a design, producing a prototype and then sending this to a factory for manufacturing, 3D printers allow us to both create the prototype and manufacture the object at home or in the office.
According to Kyle, this means that we can utilize the global market of ideas and designs while keeping production local. By manufacturing objects with 3D printers here in Edmonton, we eliminate the need for transporting physical goods over borders and reduce costs by tenfold. Machina Corp. also has the option to use biodegradable plastic made from corn for a further environmentally-friendly addition. However, printing with biodegradable materials is not proprietary to Machina Corp.; it is simply the most common filament grade for the majority of desktop 3D printers.
Innovative international companies, such as Nokia and United Kingdom computer manufacturer Raspberry Pi, have already jumped on board by releasing designs for custom cases of their products that can be downloaded for free and inexpensively manufactured in our home town. Here in Edmonton, Kyle explained, even Alberta Health Services is currently using 3D printers to create custom high-grade prosthetics for Albertan patients. This, in turn, shortens wait times.
Now these printers are not intended to replace mass production or international manufacturing, Kyle emphasized. What it is doing is increasing the accessibility and affordability of custom scale production here at home and broadening the scope of possibilities for businesses, industrial designers and individuals. All of this is what he eloquently called “an elastic extension to the way we manufacture products.”
Our short interview was definitely informative and eye-opening to the world of 3D printing and I greatly look forward to hearing more from Kyle and seeing how this innovative technology will shape how we produce and consume on a more local level.
To learn more about Kyle’s revolutionary vision, check him out at this upcoming weekend’s TEDx Edmonton conference at the Citadel Theatre.
CC photograph courtesy of “Creative Tools” on Flickr.