Think It, 3D Print It!
We had a 3D printing demo for one of our Lunch and Learn sessions at A SPACE Manila!
The idea of 3D isn’t exactly new. In fact, it’s been a common practice employed in several types of media, associated with graphics, film, television, etc. Simply put, it’s gone mainstream. On the rise now is 3D printing, also called additive manufacturing (AM). It’s an exciting innovation, being able to produce something that is corporeal and tangible; ideas that can now not only be seen or heard, but also smelled and touched. Its applications range from art, communication, domestic use, environmental use, as well as for education and research purposes. But perhaps one of the most important breakthroughs it can impact on is in the medical industry.
We had a quick chat recently with Wesley McCombe, Co-Founder and Director of Australian company 3D Orthotics. Having been based in Manila for years now, McCombe wanted to introduce the concept of 3D printing to the Philippines, specifically its uses in orthotics – a specialty that focuses on the design, application, and manufacturing of orthoses. Orthosis is “an externally applied device used to modify the structural and functional characteristics of the neuromuscular and skeletal system.” The company aims not only to resolve problems in the process and the devices, but also provide solutions using the latest in computer processing.
Tell us something about the company.
We started this company three years ago to develop some products for the medical industry. We spent nearly two years developing 3D-printed orthotics. We launched January of this year… Basically, now it’s become a mainstream product.
Can you explain to us the concept and importance of 3D printing?
I guess the big benefit of 3D printing is that it takes away the complexities of trying to manufacture something, the traditional methods. So now, you can sit in your desk, come up with an idea and draw it up in a 3D design package and then actually print it up – the same way we’ve taken a scan here and we can now print up a miniature person and it now allows us this new ability to design and conceptualize a product.
Who do you think would benefit most with 3D printing?
Lots of people. The uses are endless. The concept of “Think it, print it,” is what we’re trying to get to help people to take their ideas, how to get them eventually into the printer. We can scan a person and we can print that person.
What materials are used with these 3D printers?
There’s PLA (which stands for Polylactic Acid; a common desktop 3D printer). It’s the lowest level of [3D] printers that uses plastic. It’s non-toxic and it’s just good for building little toys. But then, what we do for medical applications is we use the half a million-dollar SLS printer. So that’s actually nylon and you can see the features in the person’s foot. It’s very accurate and you can’t even see the lines, the print lines. It’s a very different product, this printer.
Do you think 3D printing will be adapted commercially?
Yes. It already is, but it’s a slow transition because the industry is still struggling to get their heads around on how to use it, to benefit their companies. One of the things that we really try to do is help them with what they do and how to improve them.
I think people often don’t realize now is that you can print on metals now, you can print on plastics, and it’s moving really quickly. The printers are getting better, the [amount of] materials are increasing. There isn’t much in Philippines. The Philippines hasn’t really got a lot of 3D-printing facilities. Part of coming here is to also allow a focal point for people to say “Hey, I’d love to print this. Can we do it?” and we say, “Yeah, sure.” We can help them to produce it and educate people how to do this.
Learn more about 3D Orthotics via their website at http://www.3dorthotics.com.au and visit A SPACE Manila Tech Hub for a cool demonstration of 3D printing.