The University of Hong Kong’s IT Services Department has introduced an experimental 3D printing service to all students and staff since September this year.
3D printing is a relatively new, but rapidly developing technology that has become increasingly popular in the global market. It allows for physical objects to be constructed in a layer-by-layer process, similar to how a normal printer creates images on paper. Recent advances in technology have significantly brought down costs, making 3D printing affordable to mainstream businesses and even, everyday consumers. The technology is used for an increasingly wide range of purposes, ranging from industrial to medical uses.
At the beginning of the semester, HKU and the Hong Kong Productivity Council jointly showcased the application of 3D printing in biomedical engineering, including dental and dermatological services. Clinical trials were also conducted to make finger-joint implants using 3D printing technology. Currently, 10 patients have received these joint implants. 3D printing is estimated to reduce production time for medical products by two-thirds as compared to traditional production methods.
Prior to the opening up of this campus-wide service, 3D printing was previously only available to specific faculties like Architecture.
“3D printing is good for making complex shapes like curves,” says Phoebe Fan, a fourth year Architecture student who has previously used 3D printing to build models for her projects.
The service is currently offered on an experimental basis to understand the demand from the general university population. Holly Tang, a third year Arts student says,“I think it’s great that everyone can have the chance to try such a cool new technology. I would love to try it too but I heard there’s quite a long waiting list at the moment.”
The 3D printer is located at the Student Advisory Services Zone Counter, on Level 2 of the Chi Wah Learning Commons. Students are required to book an online appointment (in the same way that you book a study room at Chi Wah), and then bring the file you wish to print in STL format to the session. A staff member will process the print job and notify you by email when the product is ready for collection.
Charges depend on the time required to print the file. A file that takes 0-35 minutes would cost 70 uPrint units ($21), 35-65 minutes would cost 140 uPrint units ($42), 66-95 minutes would cost 210 uPrint units ($63) and so on.