IfM launches 3D printing lab for students

The Institute for Manufacturing has added a new cutting-edge facility to its offering – its very own 3D printing laboratory.

The lab has been funded by an Engineering teaching grant to support Manufacturing Engineering Tripos (MET) Design modules. Its aim is to allow students to convert product design ideas into rapidly produced prototyped products.


Situated inside the IfM’s Design Studio, the facility is composed of:

  • five MakerBot replicators, a type of 3D printer which prints on PLA (Polylactic acid), a bioplastic material – these can produce a small prototype in as little as 40 minutes, straight from a USB device;
  • a Denford laser cutter which can cut and engrave 2D objects;
  • a Formech vacuum former, used for 3D plastic forming to create bespoke packaging.

Thanks to these machines, plus a whole wall covered in traditional hand tools such as screwdrivers and hammers, students will be able to produce and assemble complete prototype products and packaging to support their Design projects.


The facility will provide a valued teaching resource to help students develop their design and manufacturing skills. It is recognised that the manufacturing industry has a real need for a workforce with 3D printing skills as more and more organisations are using these techniques to produce prototypes and small parts.


While the 3D lab has been created to support the IfM’s third-year undergraduate students, its use will be extended to fourth-year METs, and postgraduate Industrial Systems, Manufacturing and Management (ISMM) and PhD students will also be able to access it in the future.


For more information contact Alan Thorne at



Want to see 3D printing in action? Watch the time-lapse video below. 


Date published

28 October 2014

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