Another outlet touting the endless possibilities of 3D printing has come to Sooke and Rick Downer of the Geek Shop can only imagine where the technology will be in a few years time.
“I’ve been doing this for about two years now, and I’ve seen some pretty amazing advances already,” Downer said.
He has two machines available to the public at his Sooke Road shop and maintains that pretty much anyone can learn to create whatever they can imagine using the process commonly known as 3D printing but more accurately called additive manufacturing.
“You can 3D print anything these days. So long as you can get it through the print nozzle, you can print with it,” Downer said.
In fact, the process can use precious metals like silver and gold, chocolate, even meat, to create items. The only limit to what is printed is the imagination of its creator. Even houses have been printed and there is speculation that the housing industry may find itself facing a printed house revolution.
And learning to design items is not as arduous as many might assume.
“It took my 13-year-old daughter about two weeks to learn how to do it. The hardest part is probably learning to use the CAD (computer assisted design) program. But it’s not like you’re learning Greek,” Downer said.
Downer’s printers came as the first private business to venture into the 3D printing field, adding to the facilities that were unveiled when Makerspace at Edward Milne Community School opened in May 2018.
That facility is open to the public as well and EMCS offers training for those who are looking to learn about the technology.
So what is 3D printing?
It’s a process that involves the manufacture of an item, layer by layer, based upon a computer generated design.
The process is very different from the traditional manufacturing technologies that have been used since the dawn of time and represents a turning point that experts have said will be as transformative as the introduction of the internet.
Kate Forrest, the owner of Replik8 in Victoria, is an internationally acknowledged expert in the field of 3D printing and has taught courses in the technology to students of the University of Victoria.
“This is a tool like any other tool, but one with enormous potential to change the way we do things,” Forrest said.
“I’ll give you an example. I had the vintage Volvo collectors club approach me. It seems that there was a particular type of vintage hubcap that is nearly impossible to find. We printed them for the club, improving the design slightly so that the hubcaps didn’t fly off the car in the way that the original design had.”
But Forrest cautions that there is still a way to go before the average person can fabricate complex items.
“Still, it’s very captivating and who knows what the future will hold for the technology?” she said.
Downer invites anyone interested in learning about or trying out 3D printing technology to visit him at the Geek Shop at 596 Sooke Rd. You can also contact Makerspace at EMCS or go online to emcsprograms.ca/makerspace.