It might sound far-fetched, but Ross Stevens believes that in just a few years children will receive a computer code instead of a toy with their McDonald’s Happy Meal.
“Rather than importing masses of toys from overseas, children will be able to walk out of the restaurant with a code that they can take home, plug into their computer, tweak and then print out on their 3D printer.”
The Senior Lecturer at Victoria University’s School of Design says 3D printing has become an affordable way to do small-scale manufacturing, and with the cost of printers steadily dropping, he believes every home could ultimately have one.
“3D printers are a way of creating solid objects such as toys, jewellery and furniture with the click of a mouse, building up layers in a process that is more like growing an object than assembling it,” he says.
Ross is part of a team at the School of Design exploring the boundaries of what can be created with 3D printing. To test the capability of an in-home printer, he made a three-metre long, working chandelier.
“After 75 hours of printing, the $1,300 printer was producing objects of the same quality as the $50,000 printers we were using just a few years ago.”
He says 3D printing is an affordable technology for creating one-off objects, moving people away from mass global production back to independent, local crafting.
“Students are able to spend less time in the workshop and more time on the creative process.”
The School has a range of 3D printers from small, $1,000 machines to large, state-of-the-art machines worth $500,000.
“Our Industrial Design graduates will enter the workforce with a thorough knowledge of which processes suit various materials, what prints well on which machine and what you can print that you couldn’t make physically.”