Of all the hundreds of opportunities offered to you during your years at University, joining the 3D Printing Society probably isn’t something you’d immediately think of. But you’d be wrong to dismiss it for its obscurity and randomness, it’s actually a really interesting part of our SU. We went down there to check out one of their meetings, and it was definitely impressive.

Held in Meeting Room A of the SU, a fair few people showed up to see what all the hoo-ha was about. Could you really just join a society and start 3D printing loads of stuff? Surely it’d cost you an arm and a leg, and there’s no way there’d be an actual 3D printer on campus, those things are rare and expensive! Right?

Wrong. Sure enough, a 3D printer was whizzing away when we got there – surrounded by a bunch of “here’s one I made earlier” examples. Prosthetic hands, intricate vase designs, a model temple. The room had a futuristic feel, as if we’d somehow been transported to a world where 3D printing was the norm – and now it really is. When we first sat down, our names were put into a box and one was picked out at random to win a free print, done right before our very eyes.

The society offers 3D printing at crazy low prices. Companies, it was explained, have to charge you for the use of the printer, the filament your print is made from, the labour, running costs of their site, as well as make profit. With the society, all you pay for is the filament that you use, ripping hundreds of pounds off the hefty price tag. The vase shown below would cost £411.16 from businesses such as Materialise, yet that same vase would only cost £6.00 with them. And if you’re an active member, that could cost even less.

An intricate vase, completely made from 3D Printing.
An intricate vase, completely made from 3D printing.

What’s better – you don’t have to be an IT guru to get involved. The society are friendly and helpful and will make your ideas become a 3D printing reality, within reason. Members work together to design for other people that may lack the design knowledge, and help everyone gain a little bit more knowledge on how to use 3D printing overall. Not sure you could handle terms like “Fused Deposition Modelling” or “adhesive manufacturing”? You don’t need to! They’re only alternative terms for 3D printing anyway. We’ve seen it in action – we share our office with them and there’s always something being printed – it’s pretty cool to watch!

You don’t even have to be a member of the society to get your ideas made up to prints either. If you’re not a fan of commitment but still want a Bulbasaur plant pot for your back garden, they’ll be more than happy to help you. As soon as you’ve paid the tiny price for your item (less than 50p for the one shown here), they’ll start printing it, even with plans to live broadcast the prints in action on Twitch! Need a design model for your final year project? They’ll help you out! Members at the meeting we went to were from all sorts of courses, from Architecture to Animation to Criminology to Mechanical Engineering.

An adorable 3D printed Bulbasaur planter!
An adorable 3D printed Bulbasaur planter!

You might worry that 3D printing is bad for the environment, or maybe you prefer to spend your time volunteering for something charitable. Believe it or not, the resources used at the society are all totally recyclable. But what was really impressive about the whole experience was demonstrated at the end. The Society is dedicated to charity initiatives – the prosthetic hands I mentioned earlier are being donated free of charge to a local charity to help children with hand mobility issues. Similar charitable efforts are used from 3D printing – such as the E-nable project, which provides kids with prosthetic hands as well.

The society is sponsered by iMakr UK, who provide high quality 3D printers. To find out more about the society, follow them on Twitter and Instagram @HUD3DPS, give them a like on Facebook, and visit their society website here. They’re definitely a society to watch out for this year!

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