Interviews

The Future Is Now: Perth’s First 3D Printing Cafe

Words by: Tahlia Sanders


A little over a month ago we all celebrated “Back to the Future Day” and lamented the gaping hole that a 2015, lacking the daily realities promised by the film, had left in our lives. It all felt very reminiscent of our respective eleventh birthdays, which were disappointingly lacking in snowy white owls and/or Hogwarts acceptance letters. The Back to the Future franchise had promised us hoverboards and self-lacing shoes. A future devoid of these everyday necessities felt like no future at all.

Everything began to seem very bleak for a while. That is, until I saw a Facebook event announcing that a 3D printing café was about to launch in Perth. The prospect of such a café kindled immediate hype among the community and got me wondering: “could 3D printing be the next big technology about to make its way into our everyday lives?” The prospect seemed incredibly exciting.

I reached out across cyberspace to pick the brain of Mark Hudson, the man behind X3D Printing and its 3D printing café, in the hope that he might be able to rationalise my futuristic musings.

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Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you get into the domain of 3D printing?

We are primarily a web-store business for the promotional products industry. Given the projected growth of 3D printing we thought we could use our web-store technology and infrastructure to build a new business around 3D printing. We opened an online store one year ago but have now opened a retail shop front/cafe for our Perth customers.

What was the inspiration behind creating a 3D printing café? Do you see your decision as fitting into a broader global movement?

3D printing is still evolving (although rapidly) and is very much a creative process. It’s not like buying a fridge from Harvey Norman, People need to understand the options and limitations. They may need assistance with designing or printing. We wanted to create a space where people can experience 3D printing in a relaxed environment without having to spend a lot of money on a printer. We’re happy to take people through the process and demonstrate printing. Or, if you have an idea or a ready-made design, to get straight into printing with you.

Why did you decide to open up shop in Mt Lawley? Was there something in particular about that area that appealed to you?

We have had our offices and warehouse in Mount Lawley for the past 6 years. Our promotional product showroom has been getting used less and less and more business is now done online. So, it made sense to convert some of this into a 3D Printing Cafe. At present we are only using a small corner but we think we will convert the whole showroom over in early 2016.

What are some of the lesser-known applications of 3D printing that the public might be interested to learn about?

3D printing is now entering every part of life, from medical, dental, construction, engineering, food, prototyping, art, etc. It really is going to be a disruptive technology as it will remove the need for distribution, mass production and will allow customisation like never before. We, at X3D Printing, are mainly concerned with the growing demand in the home/consumer market catering for artists, hobbyists, designers and people wishing to create prototypes.

What’s the most unusual object you’ve been asked to print?

A Tony Abbot butt plug. Apparently there are Putin and Maggie Thatchers versions that are popular in Europe.

What do you see as being the future applications of 3D printing? Do you see 3D printers becoming a staple of everyday households?

3D Printers are getting better and cheaper by the week. One day they will be around $200 and ten times faster than they are now. Then they will find a place in almost every home. We will be able to buy designs online (e.g. sunglasses, shoes, jewellery etc.) and just print it, rather than wait for it to arrive by mail. Spare parts for cars, appliances or DIY will also become commonplace.

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The X3D Printing motto is “Create Anything” and they have a policy of printing ideas that capture their imagination for free, purely to support creativity. They want to craft a space where “people can grab a coffee while discussing their creative ideas.” Effectively, a creative hub.

I can’t wait to pay them a visit and see what all the fuss is about next time I’m around Mount Lawley. Come to think of it, I do need a new butt plug.