Manufacturing Hot Topics - Problems with 3D Printing

13 July 2018

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Announcer: You're listening to Manufacturing Ignition Hot Topics. Bringing you right up to date on the latest trends and discussions within UK manufacturing. Sponsored by Bonfire Recruitment, helping manufacturing leaders across the UK to attract the best talent for their manufacturing company. Ignite your business or career today by visiting Here's your hosts Terry Mallin and Scott Buchanan.


Terry Mallin: This week's Manufacturing Ignition Hot Topic is problems with 3D printing. And this closely follows what we covered last week on episode seven, in which we discussed the benefits of 3D printing within your manufacturing company. So all we've came to notice that the news is there's all the positive aspects of 3D printing, how it can benefit your business, so what me and Scott have decided to tackle head on, is what problems is there with 3D printing? So that's gonna be quite interesting, Scott.


Scott Buchanan: As you know, it's been quite a week for both of us in fairness so I'd like to say I've been studying this late at night, but yeah I think one of the things that seems to be pretty common with 3D printing, is the same issue I've had with printing. Which is related to the cartridges that you would use, and I think it seems to be called a filament reel. Within 3D printing.



Terry Mallin: Yes. It's like a plastic ... it's like fishing line i think it is. I think that's what it looks like. From my understanding. I've got one in front of me actually, but it's boxed. We went to our supplier, but it looks like fishing line I think, and it's the same as ink, within your own printer.


Scott Buchanan: So I guess that that must be the technique of making sure ... the nozzle is too close to the print plate, and making sure that the nozzle is also open, and is connected as well, so I guess. But I thought, and maybe you wanna speak to the people the we gave the 3D printers over to actually, for the competition we did. Actually getting some feedback on how easy is it to work. Because I would have assumed you buy one, you put in the relevant design cord, and away you go. But we em..


Terry Mallin: Yeah. I think it's a wee bit more ... it will be more difficult than that and I have done a bit of research on it, cause I was actually gonna buy one myself, do you know that? But as I said last week, but I won't do it, they're rather expensive. But yeah, I mean what can I tell you, you hook it up to your PC, you put your design into the PC, and hit go. And that designs are made. Now that brings on another problem, quite interestingly. The IP and licensing. Of products, right? So back in January, it was a 3D system acquired by a company called Gentle Giant Limited, right?


Scott Buchanan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).


Terry Mallin: And they own all of the licensing rights to toy franchises, like the Hobbit, Harry Potter, Alien, and Star Wars, right? So you can imagine this time of year, that actually what people are using it in a sort of a black market, is actually to replicate these toy dolls and toy plastic figurines, and they can actually replicate that on a 3D printer then sell it obviously as the genuine article, which it's not. So that can open up a whole new privacy situation with copyright, trademarks, legal complications, you know? Think about what's happened and any logo that can be printed onto, I don't know, a T-shirt, a jumper, any form of dodgy copy, I guess can be done now. So I guess now that you can do this in a 3D model situation and anything.


Scott Buchanan: And you could literally create anything. So ...


Terry Mallin: That's interesting. And another couple, Scott, that came to mind whilst talking, cause I was kinda thinking about this actually in the car on the way back from the vet. One obviously I think about how much heat these things would ... you know if you got a PC in the office, if you feel the PC, it's hot. The amount of heat that these bits of kit would be exerting within the manufacturing environment, so and it would be taking a lot of energy, a lot of electricity to run yeah. But combining that, there's got to be some unhealthy air emissions as well, that comes out. So you know there's got to be a bit of research done in how the emissions affect the air, and how that would be within a manufacturing environment for people working there.



Scott Buchanan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Scott Buchanan: One of the things ... and I can only assume it's the same with 3D printing, I don't know how many generations worth of 3D printer we've gone through to get to the stage we're at. But I would assume there's an element of efficiency will naturally creep in what this is part of the redesign that will be going on but whether or not that then leads to an efficient ... and the actual, whether companies can do that, but you had a valid point on a true version of 3D printing last weekend and you actually ... was it Ford? Was gonna design the...


Terry Mallin: The casing? The mold?


Scott Buchanan: Yeah.


Terry Mallin: Yeah, the mold. Yup.


Scott Buchanan: So that kind of scale, and then the actual efficiency of it, so you make a model, do you know that that way that takes whatever length of time it was to do that. Verses all the energy have done it the old-fashioned way, I guess. The efficiency is still probably greater using 3D printing than it would be without it.


Terry Mallin: Yeah. And I think one problem we're getting to is if we're gonna invest in big bits of kit with these 3D printers for our manufacturing companies is when the bases of actually all the health and safety's covered round about it will that be emissions heat off it, cause I'm guessing if it's hot enough, you'd have to have some sort of guard. And then that brings in these things break down as well. You've got to have the right type of engineers on site who can work with these bits of kit which I'm guessing it's not rocket science, but with it all connected through the Internet of things and then actually you need to make sure that everything's done in the right way and these things can be maintained. And fixed if they break down aswell. More than just spanners and talking about more network issues, and connectivity problems. So it's gonna need a definite skillset in people to join businesses as well.

Terry Mallin: Yeah. And I don't know how desirable a 3D printing engineer job verses I don't know that the other modern client-based roles are kicking about now. How viable it will be and how long you're gonna have to wait for your 3D printer to get fixed.

Terry Mallin: Or installed. To even install then they can actually get up to speed and running going for a test and trials  here's an interesting one right? Cause we'll be talking about sort of making plastics and metal and whatever else, but that is a possibility of 3D printing drugs to be made right? So a researcher ... well the whole purpose of it would be ... so there was a researcher at the University of Glasgow, they created a prototype of 3D Chemputer. That's what they called it, a Chemputer. I'm guessing chemical computer or whatever. But that makes drugs and medicines. Now, they talked this over as actually telling patients to print their own medicines with a chemical blueprint that they get from the pharmacy. You go to your doctor, you get this prescription, you can then print your own but okay, so we're talking about the problems with 3D printing here.

Terry Mallin: Now the funny thing is, and of course this is a very long way off, right? But actually people who've been watching the likes of Breaking Bad, making homemade drugs, like class A drugs, so actually that could enable DIY chemists. Like that, to create their own class A drugs to sell, whatever that might be, you know? So...


Scott Buchanan: -make drugs as well? Do you mean it could actually-


Terry Mallin: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah...


Scott Buchanan: Made a cake, do you know that way you decide to "you know what? I'll throw some of this in". That's gonna ... oh my goodness , that's ...


Terry Mallin: Yeah. So that's something completley different. So there's a lot of different aspects. Have you noticed any Scott?


Scott Buchanan: Isn't that what we would call then more like a food mixer? Do you know, what's the difference between a 3D printer there than actual chemical mixing of ...

Scott Buchanan: That's a good point, cause we're kind of thinking, when i think of 3D printing, I think exactly what I just said there about CWE plastic models that you would buy, so like a Star Wars character, Luke Skywalker, you can make that in your house

Scott Buchanan: Yeah.


Terry Mallin: Theresa May, John Major, whoever you want, right? You can make them in your house. You threw me off tangent, here. So anyway ... but actually the funny thing is, imagine you could make your own dinner. Sunday roast a 3D printer.


Scott Buchanan: But then, how disappointed, and maybe this is the point, right? One of the things you touched, the Star Wars, one of the things when I was a kid I remember looking at Star Wars thinking, dont even know what one it was Return of the Jedi, or whatever they end up in this smelly pit on the spaceship, I don’t know what the spaceship's called, but they find themselves in a really smelly place, and they're all rubbing their noses, and I thought ... and this must have been 30 years ago, easily, I'm going "wouldn't it be great, I don't know, you had a button on the telly, and you could actually smell what the television folk are smelling at the same time". So-


Terry Mallin: Ah. Yeah. I think people have tried to do that though.


Scott Buchanan: Have they?


Terry Mallin: Yeah. I mean I remember, Scott, what they would try to do, is they had some sort of sale at some sort of smoke machine out the back of your telly, an what it would do, is...


Scott Buchanan: Right?


Terry Mallin: So that's quite ... but then that's taking it to a whole new level. And have you noticed anything else in the 3D printing that could be possibly a problem?


Scott Buchanan: One of the things I was ... and this is probably my Scottish-ness coming out again, whereby what about the price of them, Terry. I mean they're not exactly ... you can't really pick them up that easily ... well actually cost of printer verses quality ... what's the hassle factor worth? Do you know that? And the other question-


Terry Mallin: But I think- yeah. Okay.


Scott Buchanan: Is actually, if you go and buy yourself a top of the range HP printer or Canon printer, just a normal technical printer, actually the cost isn't the printer. It's the ... the cost of the ink is alot more than the product. So how much does it cost to run these things, versus ... and I Googled them, I was on Tech Radar Pro, ten best best 3D printers of 2017. And the prices-


Terry Mallin: Okay.


Scott Buchanan: 3000 pound and a tenner. It would appear. So-


Terry Mallin: 10 pounds for a 3D printer?


Scott Buchanan: 10 pounds for a cube pro trio. Which is cube pro trio best for three colour, three material printing at an incredible price. 


Terry Mallin: What can you make on it, bluetack or something?


Scott Buchanan: You can make a paper clip so yeah, it's a valid point. It's an ideal solution for modelers and engineers who need to create 3D prints with moving parts.


Terry Mallin: I'm looking for a chocolate block. I need to stick some wires together. Interesting.


Scott Buchanan: What about If you get yourself a Loz Bot you know? Very fast printing, wide support for materials, but minuses, yeah it's expensive. 2100 pounds, right? Or ... and it's also not the most reliable. So what chance have you got? You go and spend your two grand and let's print supersize Theresa May and that doesn't actually, it doesn't even work.


Terry Mallin: Yeah. I'm just having a wee look, have you done any resarch for manufacturing companies who are looking to buying a big industrial printer.


Scott Buchanan: it was 30 grand or something I saw.


Terry Mallin: Yeah. ad on another zero on that as well. Yeah, I mean there was one I am looking at right now 3478 pounds, complete package, your 3D printer. It looks alright, but literally what the kind of image they have got, is making a basketball hoop. Which, for 3 and a half grand I could probably go out, buy a basketball hoop for 25. And everybody's happy of still getting the same end result.


Scott Buchanan: You're missing the point of that though, Terry. You don't get the fun out of making the basketball hoop. That's just-


Terry Mallin: Yeah. So how much is a filament, Scott?


Scott Buchanan: No idea. Genuinely don't know.


Terry Mallin: Okay. having a wee look


Scott Buchanan: Yeah.


Terry Mallin: I mean that's just ... going back to all this home use, right? The commercial home use, the me, you, can buy ... and as fishing line, that's what it looks like, so what it will do, it will feed into the 3D printer, I'm guessing that'll heat up, melt, and then it'll work its way in, it will have a model of whatever I make. But looking at this, so if I'm 1.75 meters of this, so I use a one kilogram wood filament, for which a natural wood colour, is 20 pounds? 16 pound 81? That's half price

Terry Mallin: Yeah, but then probably the question, Scott, would be how much does 1.17 meters ... what does that actually make? Does it make a paper cup? Or does it make you George Foreman? You know? What's the sort of ... how much do you need? You know Ebay's get quite a lot older, even Curry's is selling it. Curry's click and collect.


Scott Buchanan: Common now almost ... I was talking about this a few weeks ago, and I'm amazed. I always thought it would be maybe the universities that would be using this kind of technology, or I used to play rugby with a guy who ... that actually is probably a window, and I'd catch up with him because he was actually a model maker. So his job was actually to work with companies to create hand models of what their products were. So I wonder how he's getting on.


Terry Mallin: literally Curry's have got advertised a Polaroid play 3D pen, right? And you can buy this pen, and I mean it shows you some ridiculous graphics and what you can build for 20 pounds I'd be surprised. It's like a house, and also some sort of big wheel ... the shows, Scott,  and you've got a big wheel. Right? The London Eye, it's basically got an image of the London Eye, in miniature scale. I mean, for 20 pounds, I don't think you'd be able to build the London Eye, but for 20 pounds, it could be a stocking filler for Christmas. Starts in Curry's.



Scott Buchanan: Interesting.


Terry Mallin: Anyway, I digress.


Scott Buchanan: Just thinking to back up your point there, and I've just typed in Google "3D printing course" and it's giving me a price, cost per cubic inch alright? And the actual course for 3D printing is directly proportional to the amount of raft and support required for each pound or kilogram you want to print. The average course will be in the order of .2 to .8 dollars per cubic centimeter. So it's about a pound per cubic inch as a cost, of what it will cost to make something. So that doesn't seem silly, does it?


Terry Mallin: I'm guessing it's the density of the product that you're trying to make as well.


Scott Buchanan: Yeah.


Terry Mallin: So you could be making metal, you could be making anyway ... but interesting, at least we can use this as a benchmark. So I think wrapping the 3D printing up, Scott, with regards to the problems that we went through, think some good topics, actually, we'll be discussing at the end. So the key things to recap are the licensing, the copyright and trademark of products and how those can be copied quite easily potentially.


Scott Buchanan: There must be an argument against who ... so is it the seller that actually copyrights against? Or is it actually the owner of the 3D printer that's created the fake?


Terry Mallin: I would say the owner of the 3D printer that's created the fake I would guess. But anyway ...


Scott Buchanan: No, but I'm just thinking if say for example you went and bought the three grand one, a decent 3D printer, and you file in the coordinates and then you come out with something that's a copy of something, then ...


Terry Mallin: A bit crazy, innit, Scott? Cause then the basis of kids are getting 3D printers for Christmas and when they print off Bella or whatever she's called, from Frozen, or when they print off whoever, you know? And actually ... so that's quite a key one. Also the potential heat and the energy that these type of machines would consume, and of course air emissions that would come off it as well, and that outwith sort of plastic, metal, you know you can potentially print drugs which could open up a whole new can of worms as well, so there's a lot of positives in 3D printing, and also alot points to be aware of. I mean I was running late today and I'm doing this off cuff and kinda left Scott, to pull up the brief that we tend to go through, a brief tends to be four or five pages of notes, and we'll chat through it. Scott did a brief today, 78 pages. And five minutes to read over it. 78 pages. And 75 of them are on 3D printing, so if anyone wants any information, contact Scott at


Scott Buchanan: Yeah. There's plenty of technical jargon that you said two minutes before we started that we probably don't want to go down to that level of detail. So yeah, anyone needs some tech detail, we've got it here.


Terry Mallin: Okay, so I think that closes off the Hot Topic this week. On the problems with 3D printing.


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