Professor Olaf Diegel - 3 D printing the future

Imagine enjoying a delectable dinner that your 3D printer has whipped up, while you sit in the lounge of your 3D printed home.


Our thanks to Olaf for taking the time to answer the following questions asked by our viewers that he didn't have time to address during the webinar.

What ethical considerations does 3D printing raise? As a teacher I try to educate my students about the ethical implications of technologies that we use. Have talked about this with the students in the drone club, for example.

There are many, many social and ethical questions to be answered relating to 3D printing. The whole area of bioprinting, for example. Should we be able to print spare body parts that are better than our original ones? Who would printed body parts be for? Only the rich? or for every one? If we can print replacement body parts, our lifespans will be extended. How long is good? 100? 150? what does this mean for population growth on the planet. Same goes with questions about 3D printing things that are illegal. Guns? etc.

What's your opinion on printing entire houses? what are the pros and cons eg for the NZ market?

Houses are currently being printed all around the world. However, in my opinion, the majority of the houses being printed are relatively 'boring' geometric shapes that could be much more efficiently precast or pre-fabricated. So I think we need architects to get involved and design value-added structures that could only be made through 3D printing for it to offer enough value. There is also potential for 3D printing of architectural structures in dangerous areas to avoid endangering people. NASA is also working on 3D printing structures on Mars for the mission to Mars they are working on.

RocketLab made a name for 3D printing in their production. What was it that they were printing?

They are printing lots of rocket engine parts, burners, and parts with complex cooling or heating channels.

Would love to hear more about 3D printing being used in space

The printer currently on the space station is an extrusion based plastic printer for making tools and other plastic spare parts. According to the astronauts, the most useful thing they have, in fact, printed was a back scratcher! They are currently trying to figure out the best methods for printing in metal in space, so they can make more spare parts.

Is it possible to print an object with several sections having various elasticity?

Yes, there are photopolymer jetting systems that print in multiple materials, including rubbers. With these systems it is possible to make new digital materials, that mix different proportions of, say, rubber with hard plastic. It is also possible to print functionally graded materials.

As an alum, is it possible to come in one day to Unleash?

The Unleash people will answer about the Unleash space, but anyone is welcome to the CDAM Lab, alumni included. Note: Anyone that has specific questions about Unleash Space can email

What metals can’t be printed yet? Why not?

Pretty much any metals that are weldable can be printed. It is only metals that cannot be welded that are problematic. But even those, may be possible to print using technologies such as binder jetting. The main thing holding certain materials back is probably lack of demand.

Is 3D printing good for creating artwork such as sculptures?

Absolutely! We do a lot of these in our Lab. In general smaller art sculptures, say the size of a basketball, are easy. Once they get larger than that, specialized machines are needed to build them, so they can get a bit more expensive.


Imagine enjoying a delectable dinner that your 3D printer has whipped up, while you sit in the lounge of your 3D printed home.  Or, imagine customising your dream shoes online and having them manufactured by a 3D printer at a store near you, cutting out the need for international shipping.

Such convenience is just around the corner but how will our lives change with these technologies? Olaf says if we don’t adapt now, New Zealand won’t be ready for the technology of tomorrow. If we don’t learn to lead the way in this industry, we will lose a competitive advantage over the rest of the world. This talk will delve into why 3D printing is a remarkable tool for innovators, the current and future uses of 3D printing and will also feature a few of Olaf’s own 3D printed creations. If you haven’t seen a 3D printed guitar before, you’re in for a treat.

Speaker's bio

Dr Olaf Diegel is a professor of additive manufacturing at the University of Auckland.

He is an educator and a practitioner of product development with an excellent track record of developing innovative solutions to engineering problems. Over the last 20 years, Olaf has become a passionate follower of 3D printing. He believes it is a godsend to innovation as it allows designers and inventors to instantly test ideas to see if they work. It also removes the traditional manufacturing constraints that become a barrier to creativity and allows us to get real products to market without the high costs that become a barrier to innovation. He also makes cool 3D printed guitars!

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