Made in Brunel is a very fitting brand to represent the Brunel Design School. Making things has always been at the heart of studying design at Brunel University. The culture of our students making the products that they design results in graduates who understand materials, manufacture, and the development of products through prototyping and model making. Brunel inherited its culture of making and craft from its predecessor – Shoreditch College. Based at the Runnymede campus, for many years this was the pre-eminent teacher training college in the UK, producing top quality craftspeople to go on and inspire generations of school children into the world of design and technology.
Our workshops today would still be recognisable to the graduates of Shoreditch College. Despite significant investment and modernisation over the years, the heart of the workshops remains the same, with much of the machinery and equipment still in use from the early days. However, times are rapidly changing, and the way we go about making things in future is a key consideration in a long-term strategy that is being developed to take our workshops into an exciting new era.
The rapid rise of 3D printing and additive manufacturing has led to these technologies being the first choice for many students in the production of plastic and elastomer components. As designs are increasingly being developed using 3D modelling software, it is often the quickest and most convenient method of manufacturing prototypes. With good quality 3D printers becoming more affordable over the last few years, the technology is commonly introduced at school, meaning that students are joining our courses already familiar with the process.
The question is: what does this mean for the more traditional methods of manufacture? There is no doubt that we will see more parts being 3D printed in future. The quality of the prints and the number of materials available will only increase the scope of what will be possible. This certainly does not spell an end to our traditional workshops though. One of the key attractions of studying design at Brunel is to get ‘hands on’, and the process of students undertaking traditional practical work is still an essential part of their education in design. Our workshop experience course which is undertaken by all first year’s aims to give students an appreciation of different materials and methods of manufacture. More importantly, it introduces our culture of craft and quality of work that started back in the days of Shoreditch College. Many of the projects that our students go on to design, including examples in this book, simply cannot be manufactured by 3D printing alone. It is essential that we retain the equipment and skills to allow our students the freedom to be able to take their ideas and turn them into physical artefacts. To reduce the scope of our facilities would be to limit creativity and would result in students designing products to suit the equipment available.
We are entering into a very exciting time for our workshops over the next two years. Securing a £1 million grant earlier this year has allowed us to invest heavily into modernising our workshop spaces. We are in the process of setting up the first college Makespace – a multi-material workshop, open to all students within the College of Engineering, Design and Physical Sciences. The workshop will be a space for students from different disciplines to design, develop, test, make and break using both advanced and traditional tools and machines.
Another exciting development this year has been the establishment of the new Digital Fabrication Centre (DFC). This will grow into a flagship facility for the University, with open use FDM printing available to all, coupled with the latest in cutting edge 3D printers, including large format printers capable of printing parts one metre long, and a photopolymer printer capable of printing full-colour parts in seven different materials. The DFC aims to meet the 3D printing demands of the university in the future and support many different departments and disciplines. We have seen many exciting projects pass through the centre this year and we are looking forward to an exciting future ahead.