A networking group in Milton Keynes was given a tantalising glimpse into the future of 3D printing and the revolution it is already starting to bring.
Even now experts have managed to print stem cells, the building blocks of life, by using biological material.
Dr Chris Tuck, of the University of Nottingham, told a meeting of Biztech at Milton Keynes College on Thursday that: “You could print your mobile telephone, not in the next year or two. If it happens in the next 10 years I’ll be suprised but we can already print components.”
Professor Stewart Williams, of the Welding Engineering and Laser Processing Centre at Cranfield University, said: “There is a lot more going on round here than you might think.”
His department is already involved in using metal heated to 2,000 degrees to build components. An Airbus pilot plant is due to be set up in the next 12 months and Lockheed Martin, in Ampthill, is also developing the technology, he said.
Although Dr Tuck said he didn’t believe all the hype about 3D printing leading to a complete “democratisation of manufacturing” he said it offered the possibility of building bespoke products.
“You need someone with design skills in this kind of technology,” he said.
Michelle Greeff, 3D print manager at Hobs 3D said it was now possible to buy a desktop printer for about £1,000. The kind of applications they could be used for included product design, cross-sections,and even to turn scans of parts of the body into replicas, helping surgeons to carry out surgery.