Every Monday morning, Professor Jennifer Loy flies from the Sunshine Coast to Sydney with one goal in mind: to teach the next generation of product designers how to imaginatively – and responsibly – design for emerging technology.
“One of our roles as a university is to provide long-term research into the disruptive potential of new technologies, its impact on people and the future of work and industry,” says Jennifer.
In teaching final-year product design students and postgraduates, one of Jennifer’s goals is to help develop Australia’s role in advancing additive manufacturing and its applications. Additive manufacturing is more commonly known as 3D printing. The term refers to around 40 different technologies that use a range of materials for very different applications.
Jennifer explains: “These technologies are changing the game for manufacturers worldwide. Additive manufacturing works across disciplines, across industry sectors, and that’s one of the main points of interest for us because it creates new collaborations and opportunities. It’s impacting everything from medical to construction to fashion. Almost anything you can name has a link to 3D printing.”
Additive manufacturing is based on creating products in layers from a computer model, which results in an ability to manufacture complex products without the need for moulds. This allows industries to shift from a mass production approach towards mass customisation for users. It’s a very different way of thinking about products.
To help industries prepare and transition into using these new technologies, and to foster innovation in this space, Jennifer (who works in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building) has teamed up with researchers in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology.
She says, “There is a genuine interest at UTS in bringing together design and engineering to look at the transformative potential of digital fabrication technologies for industry and society.”
Jennifer, who is originally from the UK and has a background in industrial design and mass production, came across the potential of additive manufacturing for end-use products serendipitously.
“I was looking for a way to manufacture bespoke metal hinges for a designer-maker,” she reveals. “This was at a time when additive manufacturing was only just starting to develop from a rapid prototyping technology to one where it could be used in production. And you could say from that point on I was hooked.”
From there, Jennifer has gained experience on some amazing projects – additive manufacturing for humanitarian logistics with Oxfam in Nairobi, customised wearables for the Defence Force, fashion and developing innovative prosthetics (for humans and animals) to name just a few.
In fact, Jennifer helped in the preparation of a difficult surgery on a seriously injured dog. By providing the vet with 3D printed planning models and support materials, the team were able to return the animal to full health and activity.
“While the drawback to travelling is not being able to spend as much time with my own family and three dogs, it’s doing work like this that makes it all worthwhile.”