Hochschule Bonn-Rhein-Sieg
3D printer for plastic filaments (FDM procedure). Photo: H-BRS
Bauteile aus dem 3D-Drucker
Printer parts. Photo: H-BRS

3D printing: manufacturing technology of the future

Resource-saving production of parts and products is gaining ground as a sustainable alternative. One example is lightweight construction: materials are used only where the effective loads require it. The design is often based on biology, such as the structure of mammal bones or support structures modelled after tree branches. 3D printing can overcome the limitations of conventional methods when reproducing these structures. The nearly boundless “geometric freedom” of this procedure allows it to produce almost any shape. This supports another major trend in production technology: customization.

The CitizenLab for 3D printing demonstrates the full scope of this technology and its design options to citizens of the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg region. It also allows H-BRS researchers to probe the public’s current knowledge of and future need for 3D printing.

3D printer for plastic powder (SLS process). Photo: H-BRS

Customisation, not mass production

Instead of standardising products, such as shoes, to be used by as many people as possible, future methods use scanned data for customized production. Since the procedure is also highly automated, 3D production centres are not bound to typical industrial zones, but can be built where consumers live. This reduces the emission-heavy global flow of goods. Thinking one step ahead, 3D printers could be set up as “micro factories” at print shops or even in households. Instead of buying a product, customers would buy 3D data and print their own.

For this scenario to become viable, 3D printing would need to win consumer trust, and consumers would also need some knowledge of this technology. This is the premise for the 3D printing lab of the Campus to World project. Depending on what participants want, they can choose between intro or in-depth workshops and get advice before buying a 3D printer. Target groups include not just citizens of the Bonn-Rhein-Sieg region, but also local businesses, students, pupils and all others interested in 3D printing.

Knowledge transfer for acceptance and progress

H-BRS researchers evaluate these workshops and conducted surveys to find out how much people currently know about 3D printing and help forecast the development and distribution of this young, innovative technology.

Face shield for GFO hospital group. Photo: H-BRS

3D printing in action

The 3D printing laboratory had its first practical trial during the Corona pandemic, where face shields were produced and donated to the GFO hospital group in Bonn.