< Return to keynote biogs < Back to all contributors
Barney Townsend

Barney Townsend

Affiliation: London South Bank University, Royal College of Art

Keywords: 3D Printing, Open Source, Project-based Learning 

Conference activity: Presentation Thurs 10th July, Pop Up Exhibition Trelissick House

Project Summary:

Following the expiration of the patents on the FDM 3D printing process some years ago, a significant market for open 3D printers emerged, fuelling popular media claims that one might be found in every home before long. Anderson (2012) hails a new era of democratized innovation that these (and other) digital technologies will enable. The domestic printers, however, are not necessarily the utopian home fabrication tool that the hype might lead us to believe. They require considerable technical skills to assemble and operate, and on-going maintenance and adjustment to both hardware and software in order to keep them operating effectively. The organic and changing nature of the open 3d printer movement means that the hardware often outgrows the literature and learning resources that are available, making the assembly and operating process a complex and sometimes frustrating task for the new user.

This paper will document the challenges and opportunities for innovation presented by the process of building an open source 3D printer from the perspective of 2nd year BSc students of Engineering Product Design at the author’s institution. The project was designed to explore the learning experience that a self-directed technical assembly and design project can offer to students, and by extension, to other user groups and makers as well.  In addition to the insights that might be gained into the Open Source and Maker Movement paradigms, the detailed understanding of 3D printing technology, and the associated technical skills, that students gain from the project will be highly beneficial to their future careers in the design industry.


Anderson, C. (2012), Makers: The New Industrial Revolution. Random House Business.

Lipson, H., Kurman, M. (2013), Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing. John Wiley and Sons.

A question that arises from your project: Now that the seed has been planted, how can an open library resource of 3D printers be used to best pedagogical effect in the context of a University Design School?

Full paper:

Townsend, B. (2014), DIY 3D Printing: Open source 3D printer development by students of engineering product design. In K. Bunnell & J. Marshall (Eds.), All Makers Now: Craft Values in 21st Century Production, International Conference Proceedings, Autonomatic Research Group, Falmouth University, 10/11 July 2014 (pp. 159 – 166). Falmouth University, ISBN 978-0-9544187-9-3