Remember the ZX 81 Sinclair? Leon Lindblad, director and founder of Refurbo.uk. does - with a passion. ‘I got my first ZX 81 when I was 7 years old’ he says. ‘It was 1K and I had to use BASIC.
I was so excited and had to run straight out and buy the magazine to tell me how to programme it. Now it would all be online. All I could make was a game with two moving dots. Today’s kids would laugh, but that is what got me excited about new technology and its possibilities.’
Now, 3D printing is the future of manufacturing and students need to learn early how it works- the whole process from start to finish. I would love for kids to be as excited as I was, to be the makers of the future. Our aim is for all students to have hands on experience from as soon as they are ready. Our Dream3D package is designed to be affordable and easy to set up, so that there can be several in a classroom with all the buzz of inspiring and creating an object from start to finish. When one was taken into school for a trial the students couldn’t believe how quick and simple it was. I am thinking it would be a good little home printer to start kids off at home as well.
Refubo’s mission of planet friendly products is always forefront in Leon’s thinking and the real magic of this package is the use of biodegradable PLA filament, which can be recycled. Plastic objects can be returned to Refurbo free of charge, where they will be melted down and remade into more PLA which the schools can buy back. Leon has a bee in his bonnet about the circular economy; the mantra of reuse, reuse and reuse again has always been a priority since he started in the refurbishing business 15 years ago.
His passion for his products is obvious when he talks about the Dream 3D being a ‘gateway back to the physical world of making. And making useful stuff! ‘As children we like to make, we build with Lego and Meccano. Now, a lot of design is digital, but we still want to see the product we have designed and 3D printing is perfect for that. I am really interested in kids designing useful things as well as the models and stuff for school projects though. What can they design and invent for the future?’ Educational institutions are often deterred by the cost but that is where the Dream 3D comes in. It is affordable, easy to set up and easy to use. So students can start designing, problem-solving and making immediately. Leon hopes that the new generation of designers and manufacturers might be inspired by their first experience with a Dream 3D, as he was with his ZX 81.
I was given a tour of the 3D process by Fernando, the 3D printing guru, who explained the various 3D printing options available and how he and his team designed, programmed, printed, tested and refined their products from start to finish. The design is 80 percent of the work. So many skills are involved in the whole process and I was surprised at the time it takes to print out a product. This is why Fernando thinks the Dream 3D is perfect for schools, not just for affordability, but because it uses recyclable PLA; it is simple and compact, a benefit for school classrooms. ‘Of course there will be failures and problems but that is all part of the learning process’ he says. ‘We find problems after testing and have to go back and trouble-shoot and that is how we learn. The 3D printers in the print room were built by the team themselves and so they know exactly how they work and what to do when they go wrong.’
As an educator, but someone who knows very little about 3D printing, I was impressed with their enthusiasm for the 3D printer and its possible uses across the curriculum. This would certainly inspire a lot of ideas and fun, whilst learning relevant and transferable skills. It is also neat; complete with its own little wooden filament holder, designed and made by the team. A great way (while still being kind to the planet) to start the 3D printing journey. Talking of back to the future, I also saw a Soda Stream in Leon’s office, but that is another story.