What is This 3D Printer Doing in a Museum?

Not so well-hidden in London's Design Museum is a BigRep large-format 3D printer

Not so well-hidden in London's Design Museum is a BigRep large-format 3D printer

While strolling through a museum the other day, I literally stepped on a gigantic 3D printer. What was it doing there?

I happened to be visiting the new Design Museum in London, which features exhibits explaining the importance and methods of design, something of interest to all Fabbaloo readers. If you haven’t been to this museum, I highly recommend walking through it if you happen to be in the London, UK area. They’ve recently moved into a much larger facility where they can show all manner of designs and design tools. 

The Design Museum in London holds a couple of 3D surprises

The Design Museum in London holds a couple of 3D surprises

Including a rather large design tool, in this case an entire BigRep large format 3D printer. 

This huge printer was featured in a section of the museum detailing the tools of design. By coincidence there was also a brand new Form 2 desktop 3D printer present in the facility. 

A Form 2 dekstop 3D printer is on display at London's Design Museum 

A Form 2 dekstop 3D printer is on display at London's Design Museum 

While the Form 2 is a formidable desktop unit, the majority of attention was being paid to the BigRep machine, which as you can see at top, is a rather large machine. 

Why put a machine like this in a museum? I believe this is of great value to BigRep, who literally have thousands of people see their equipment every day. The machine is an open format style, so it’s easy for museum-goers to understand how it works. 

How popular is it? Very, according to the staff I spoke with. In fact, I overheard schoolchildren excitedly talking about it, as they heard there was “ a 3D printer” on the next floor. And they weren’t referring to the Form 2. 

But having an open format 3D printer - that actually operates in a public space - is challenging. 

I spoke with the Design Museum operator, who explained they had to cover up the control panel during the very long print jobs, because too many visitors could not resist pressing buttons. Print failures were common this way until they pasted a sheet overtop of the panel. 

The Design Museum smartly covers up their BigRep's control panel

The Design Museum smartly covers up their BigRep's control panel

Another unique problem exists in this scenario: large equipment typically (and sometimes by regulation must) have an emergency power off button. The button immediately cuts off power to the equipment and is supposed to be used in situations where life and limb are in danger. 

However, these emergency power off buttons are mounted prominently and are usually red in color. It’s the perfect attractant for schoolchildren to press. It even looks like a toy button, for that matter. 

But the Design Museum could not cover this up, as doing so would likely violate operational rules. And you may even need to use it someday in the future. 

It’s a tradeoff for this museum: take some risks, but demonstrate an amazing technology to the world. 

Via The Design Museum

General Fabb

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has been writing Fabbaloo posts since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

+