As part of an InnovateUK funded project involving several collaborators to pioneer a new 3D printing technology whereby conductive tracks can be laid during the polymer print process, ITERATE was tasked with designing a large format printer that would be capable of delivering this new technology for the very first time. ITERATE’s role was to undertake the industrial design of the FDM printer (Fuse Deposition Modelling) which was vital in proving the possibilities presented by an advanced 3D printing technique with applications across diverse sectors.
The industrial design created by ITERATE needed to deliver a stable, enclosed environment with a modern and fitting style. It was crucial that the space could be fully enclosed to allow for the precise temperature variation needed to produce high quality parts. Beyond this, there were two key areas of close attention: the design had to strategically protect the equipment itself and the user who would interact with the machine. The challenge was to create a concept that safely captured the equipment within and was easily accessible from without, all in an exciting form.
“I saw at first hand how Gethin augmented his core skill as an accomplished Design Engineer with project governance to the highest professional standards in a complex multi-partner consortium” Mervyn Levin, Monitoring Officer at InnovateUK
ITERATE created four different concepts for the FDM printer design. Drawing upon the team’s extensive experience using a range of 3D printers (in-house and across the industry), we translated first hand user insight to inform the concept ideation. The design concepts included features such as user interaction callouts and touchscreen displays, along with deeply considered and strategic access points to the reel, for tool changes and for maintenance of the electronics. Our designs also explored the safest and most productive assembly line configuration within the 3D printer. Design details such as company branding and auto-change technology for the reels also created more sophisticated possibilities for the industrial design too.
Beyond the initial application of proving the viability of a new 3D printing technology, the industrial design of an FDM printer which can lay conductive tracks, would enable 3D printing to be used far more widely. Advanced 3D printing technologies have exciting applications in sectors such as aerospace and automotive, where the value of lightweight parts can have a momentous impact on performance. The potential to produce better performing parts that utilise less material will create an important opportunity for more sustainable manufacturing technologies like this to become the norm.