Is 3D printing the future or a gimmick? Personally I think it’s the present, we just need to learn to utilize this technology and find the correct applications for it. Ireland based company LayerLabz have developed a great product for educating people on the in’s and out’s of 3D printing. I managed to catch up with Robin McGrath, the Co-Founder of LayerLabz, at the Web Summit 2014.
Can you tell our readers about Layer Labz?
We design and manufacture 3D printers here in Ireland and our key focus right now is selling into educational institutions including secondary schools, collages and we have even had a few primary schools in contact with us. Our machine is ideal for this as it has a much bigger build out than our competition, which for the price we are selling at is very hard to get. We have; dual head printing, the machine is fully enclosed, which is one of the main selling points especially in a work or school environment, so no one can tamper with the inner workings of the printer as its working.
One of our key aspects is safety and reliability and we try and provide peace of mind through training and development at the moment, we have an online training platform and our key focus will always be safety and reliability ensuring peace of mind so everyone can design and build the way we can.
What brought you into the world of 3D printing?
Alan, my Co-Founder, is a product designer so he is always building stuff himself and he found the files for an open source printer and he built that. As with everything he builds he thought ‘ well that didn’t work properly’ and went on to build more and refine the product. That’s how we got to where we are now, he solved his problems, why cant we solve them for everyone else?
Do you see a big future for 3D printing?
It depends on how you look at it. A lot of people where saying that 3D printers where going to be in every home in the next couple of years but I don’t think that’s really going to happen as it takes a fair bit of design knowledge to work one at the moment. In a few years maybe this shift to the home will start to happen, but right now where the technology is, you would require a fair bit of knowledge to really get the full use out of it. So if the average Joe was to by one then they would get it, probably use it for a week or two then just stop. But people such as engineers they would have a need for this and they would use this every day, so in sectors like that is where the initial growth would be.
What can you make with a 3D printer right now?
Well anything you can think of, we have on display here a vase and video game characters (such as Mario), you can use this to build miniatures such as Warhammer.
I even used this when I broke the back of my Sky TV remote. I was able to easily print out a replacement. Another I found was to help with my father, he has terrible arthiritus and he struggles to get at his pills, they come in awkward packaging and I was able to build him a lever to help open the packs. You can go down any road with the technology, it’s extremely useful and versatile, and any 3D shape you can think of.
You say you can build anything, what are your restrictions and limitations legally and physically?
Currently it’s not a heavily regulated industry at the moment. Generally speaking 3D printers are a tool just like a hammer or a screw driver. They do certain things very well and there are certain things they won’t do but as the technology develops, things are getting easier so right now you need to build supports for any over hangs in your builds. For instance on our Mario here, the support is built up between the legs to support the 3D print, but now there is a new type of filament that we can use that is actually water soluble.
To avoid all the work of breaking this off and then sanding down the legs you can print the majority in one type of material and the support in this new type. Once the print is complete, you can just wash it and the excess material will come off. This now takes out one of the more tedious parts of the process, again with technology at this level there is a constant stream of innovations coming through and that happens to be one of the more interesting ones.
If our readers wanted to contact you, how can they reach you?
Editor in Chief: David