Forum looks at magic of 3D printing

The ever-expanding limits of 3D printing will be explored tonight at a public forum investigating the technology’s applications in all facets of society.

3D Print Wollongong, to be held at the Wollongong City Gallery, will host a surgeon, a scientist, an artist and an ethicist about how the process is transforming their respective fields.

Known as additive manufacturing, models are built from plastic polymers layer by layer, to the point where jewellery, prototypes, and, in the near future, even human body parts, appear as if from thin air.

“It allows you to create complex and personalised shapes. We’re building wearable and implantable things at a human bionic level,” said  University of Wollongong’s  Professor Gordon Wallace, director of the ARC Centre of Electromaterials Science.

“We’re using materials that conduct electricity, polymers so sophisticated you can incorporate living cells in them. You can’t do that by conventional manufacturing.”

Scarborough jewellery maker Cinnamon Lee uses 3D-printed shapes to create moulds for her intricate silver and gold rings. 

Ms Lee will speak tonight about the new creative possibilities opened up by the technology.

“It changed the way I think about how things can be made. Doing these designs by hand would be pretty much impossible,” she said.

Using melted titanium, Ms Lee has been working with a UOW team on a new process called direct metal printing, where entire titanium rings are built using the same additive process.

“Most of my work is a direct result of this technology,” she said.

Prof Wallace said UOW teams had been working with medical professionals in exploring the potential for 3D printing to enter the operating room, to replace parts of the human body.

 Professor Peter Choong of St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, a collaborator on one of these projects, will also speak at 3D Print Wollongong.

“We’re developing implants customised for muscle and bone regeneration,” Prof Wallace said.

“Our vision is to have printers in surgery to create customised implants where and when needed.” 

The workshop begins at 4.30pm. For more information, see  electromaterials.edu.au/.

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