The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) occupies the site of the Liverpool Road Station, the world’s first railway station. It served as the Manchester terminus of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&MR), an important route ferrying commercial and public traffic between these two key cities. Exhibits at MOSI include “Baby,” the machine used to run the world’s first stored computer program, Richard Arkwright’s water frame that revolutionized the textile industry, and the Ferranti Mark I, the world’s first commercially available computer produced in Manchester.

Upon entry to 3D: Printing the Future, visitors are greeted by Tobias Klein’s Synthetic Heart, an artwork created from MRI scanned data of the artists own heart, reimagined as a work of sculpture. It is beautifully lit and really helps to draw visitors into the space.

The exhibition is broken up into 15 or so key exhibits, on two organically shaped tables with a cornucopia of smaller 3D printed objects playfully scattered around them. The presentation of the exhibition was nicely thought out, with recessed vitrines below the surface of the table displaying some of the smaller pieces very well, and a “curtain” of prints suspended from the ceiling, creating a nice transition from one section to the other.

Upon entering the main space, I was immediately drawn to a 3D scanned portrait of Madchester icon Mark Berry, better known as “Bez” of Happy Mondays fame. The portrait was scanned locally at Hobs Studio, a U.K.-based chain of reprographics service bureaus that have evidently expanded into the 3D space.

 

The portrait of Bez was not the only local flavor on exhibition. 3D: Printing the Future showcased a number of innovative and exciting 3D printed objects and related technologies designed and created in the North West of England.

One project on display that’s sure to cause some controversy is a scanner designed by researchers at the University of Manchester, led by professor Nick Bowring, to find concealed 3D printed guns and other types of threatening objects. Accurate to a range of 25 meters, the scanner is the first of its type to attempt to defeat the threat posed by 3D printed weapons and other objects that would be undiscovered by metal detectors.

 

Another project on display in the exhibition with roots in the North West is a 3D printed mountain bike frame. It was designed by Empire Cycles in Bolton and fabricated by Renishaw. It is designed to be the latest evolution in frame design, printed in titanium and engineered in such a way that there is strength and infill only where it is needed, so that it can be lighter than your normal frame. At the moment this is probably inaccessible to most cyclists in terms of cost, but as with all of this technology the costs will come down in time.

I made the trip out to Manchester for the 3D print show in part to see WALLY The Wall Plate Customizer and Monogrammed iPhone case prints by The New Hobbyist, aka Chris Krueger, a 3D printing enthusiast based out of Arlington Heights in Illinois. I’ve known Chris for several years now and it was great to see his work in the exhibition. Chris’ pieces had previously been included in 3D: Printing The Future at the British Science Museum in London.

Chris’ work wasn’t the only contribution from outside Manchester. There were a number of important pieces that I’d seen online but had yet to experience in the flesh. Of these, the 3D printed Skull Patch by medical researcher Dietmar W Hutmacher was hard to beat. I’d been using Skull Patch as examples in workshops and lectures for a year now, so it was great to see it in real life.

It was also great to see a 3D printed circuit board developed by the University of Texas, El Paso mechanical engineering professor Ryan Wicker. This technology represents an important step toward manufacturing integrated electronics, something that makers may soon be able to enjoy with the Voxel8 printer released at CES earlier this year.

Another popular piece on display was the Polar Bears on Stairs — an animation posted to Vimeo last year by design studio DBLG. At MOSI they had all 50 of the “frames” from the animation on display. Seeing them all behind the vitrine felt a bit like the curtain being pulled back on The Wizard of Oz.

 

There were way too many cool things to write about all of them here – if you are in the U.K., go check it out for yourself.

The exhibition is up through April 19, 2015 and the MOSI website has more info here: http://www.mosi.org.uk/whats-on/3d-printing-the-future.aspx