Now in its fifth year, DEVELOP3D LIVE was as busy as ever: cementing its claim as the UK’s leading one-day conference on design, engineering and manufacturing technology.

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When we say ‘busy’, we mean over 30 world-class speakers crammed into just three theatres, whilst exhibitions hum across four separate spaces (where you could get your hands on some of the latest VR design tech). It was so frantically busy, that an expansion into a two-day event would be a deserved upgrade to next year’s proceedings. With such a fantastic roster of speakers, perhaps some talks could be repeated, so that everyone has the chance to experience the best stuff.

Before we delve deeper into the talks themselves next week, here’s a brief run-down of our conference highlights.

Mayku – Ben Redford

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3D printing startups are a everywhere, and almost every single one has the same, tired USP – “We bring 3D printing to your desktop”. The team at Mayku are evidently aware of this, and are instead looking to miniaturise well-established industrial processes:

“The idea is to take all kinds of industrial [manufacturing] processes, and shrink them into home-use desktop devices.”

Although a fully functioning (miniature) blast-furnace is probably out of the question, Mayku have played it safe with their first effort: FormBox, a simple thermoforming / vacuum-forming machine that works with any domestic vacuum cleaner. Apparently, they have a rotational moulding machine in the pipeline… we can’t wait to see how they tackle injection moulding!

IKEA – Martin Enthed

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This year, IKEA will be printing 213 million copies of their 2016 catalogue! Martin Enthed and his team create tens of thousands of unique images (customised for each country it serves) each year to fill the pages of their catalogues and website.

Before 2006, all product images still involved assembling every iteration of a product, building hundreds of kitchens, and taking real photographs of them. In 2006, the first computer generated product image (of a chair) appeared in the catalogue. Fast-forward to 2009, and over 10,000 computer generated images were in use.

“Today, 75% of product images are 3D-only.”

If any of this strikes you as cheating, put your sustainability hat on… With a computer generated image of an IKEA kitchen, there is no waste: kitchen cabinets don’t need to be assembled, accessories aren’t wasted, neither is the energy needed for lighting, they’re even saving the wasted carbon that would be needed to move everything around. But what about the photographers I hear you cry? Don’t worry about them, they’re doing better than ever: IKEA’s global product range is expanding at such a rate, that they actually take more traditional photographs now, than they ever have.

From an employee development perspective, it was interesting to learn how they dealt with the skills-gap between 3D CAD artists and photographers… The (somewhat brilliant) answer:

“Every 3D artist has to become a junior photographer, and every photographer has to become a junior 3D artist.”

RoboSynthesis – Philip Norman

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As you might expect from an artist, sculptor, architect, and accidental engineer: Philip Norman’s talk was luxuriously tangential, non-linear and drew from a broad pallet of influences. Well, would you expect to learn about ‘Integritas, Consonantia, Claritas’ – the guiding principles of 13th century philosopher Thomas Aquinas at an engineering conference?

In his search for truly universal 3D modularity, Philip has stumbled upon a range of cost effective, ‘repurposeable’ robots connected via mechanical and electrical axially and orthogonally reconfigurable joints. His work relies upon Bio-mimicry, favouring flexible materials over their stiffer cousins wherever possible: this means using polymers – lots of polymers. As a result, Philip’s robots contain substantially less ferro-magnetic material than any others of their kind – making them perfect to survive even the harshest electromagnetically active environments, notably CERN.

Find out more at robosynthesis.com

Once again Develop3D Live was a fast-paced and intellectually nourishing day. The welcome change from the day-to-day of real design work gave everyone some time to pause, reflect and recharge their brain cells: ready to innovate another day!

Next week, we will digest Gian Paolo Bassi‘s latest SolidWorks news; examine the staggering improvements Jon Hirschtick  has in store at OnShape; contemplate advice on connected products from Microsoft’s Simon Floyd; and kick back with some cool stuff from Naomi Keren and Yowza.

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As featured on Core77

http://www.core77.com/posts/51780/The-Latest-in-Design-Tech-and-Engineering-at-Develop3D-Live