Getting to grips with advances in 3D printing technology could spark a new industrial revolution and bring more manufacturing jobs to Britain, it is hoped.
The process of additive manufacturing could bring industry full circle, from the mass production and economies of scale of the past, to the digital revolution and more personalised craft.
Just like a conventional 2D inkjet printer does, the new technology builds objects layer-by-layer, but when scanned or through use of computer modelling programs, the tiny layers can be printed out to form a solid, three-dimensional object.
The managing director of additive manufacturing consultancy Econolyst, Dr Phil Reeves, said print solutions that allow firms to personalise products on a large scale and produce individual objects for customers open up an enormous opportunity. "It almost takes us back to a craft industry where things were made for individuals," he said.
He added that such objects as hearing aids, hip implants and even toys are being printed in 3D and that being able to personalise a product to an individual's specifications also benefits the environment "because people are keeping the product for longer, and it has more value to the consumer."
Copyright Press Association 2012