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New 3-D printing service

Craig ColledgeCraig Colledge, Head of Warwick Print, talks to us about how a new 3D printing service for staff and students was developed with support from Innovation Management.

What was the big idea?

The idea was to look into providing a new 3D printing service to the Warwick community, utilising new technologies."

Where did the idea come from?

The five-year planning process. It planted the seed for looking into the potential for Warwick Print to offer a service incorporating new 3D print technology, and I was responsible for investigating demand and exploring the options."

How did you get the ball rolling?

I worked with an Innovation Support project manager to gain a greater understanding of the value of the idea, its challenges, risks and practicalities. The Innovation Management team has a range of tools and techniques to support ideas at Warwick, which were really helpful to gather data, identify objectives and evaluate the potential.

The first step was to carry out surveys with our academic and student communities to establish demand, costs, resource requirements and potential return on investment."

What did you learn from the Warwick community?

We learned that only 10% of the students surveyed actually needed 3D printing as part of their University course, and that most of those were engineering students who already had access to their own department's resources. We also found that a number of departments already had an established 3D printing infrastructure in place for research, and that our academics applied for funding to cover the cost of this through their research grants. However, because these were set up specifically for a research project, they couldn't be used by students or colleagues in different areas."

What other factors influenced the outcome?

We found that there are lots of different types of 3D printers on the market, all producing parts in different materials and size. One machine wouldn't have been able to offer a full service and we would have had to invest in multiple devices."

What was decided?

While Warwick Print is proud to have been continually evolving to keep up with new technologies over the past 40 years, the idea management process helped us realise that this was a service that didn't warrant a major investment as it was already being provided to our staff and student communities via other routes.

However, we wanted to be able to offer a service to others who might want to use it outside of their coursework or research, so have negotiated with third party suppliers to offer a 3D printing solution through Warwick Print.

What was the outcome?

Warwick Print now offers a 3D printing service to staff and students, turning STL files into 3D models up to 30cm tall in a range of colours, from just £5!."

How did the Innovation Management service help?

The Innovation Management service helps put people with ideas in touch with colleagues with many years of experience, both commercial and academic. Often people hold back on an idea because they think it takes too long or there's too much red tape, but Warwick is changing and is actively supporting idea owners to get the help and encouragement they need to take things forward.

I've been involved from both sides, firstly as an idea owner and also as a project manager supporting others on a few projects, which has been a great experience, using new tools and talking to experts in a varied range of skill sets to work towards building a case for or against pursuing an idea."

3d printing

Innovation at Warwick

Innovation at Warwick

What if... I had a great idea?

Find out more about innovation management at Warwick here.

Ideas Space - submit your idea