Stationers’ Hall has always been a place of debate and today is no exception with our round table events provoking discussion and often presenting two sides of an argument. One recent Digital Media Group event was a presentation on 3D printing and Members may recall the detailed report on the event from Past Master John Waterlow  in the April 2017 edition of Stationers’ News. This was just the Company’s latest foray into exploring 3D printing.

Back in 2013, Liveryman John Charnock wrote a thought piece for the website about 3D Printing and followed it with a DMG roundtable in 2014 at which a 3D printing device was on show. Even before that, Liveryman Peter Day spoke about 3D printing at the Charter Dinner in 2011. 

Clearly this new technology has inspired the interest of a number of Stationers.  But is it really part of the Communications and Content industry?  We asked two members, Liveryman James Duckenfield of Hobs and Court Assistant Robert Flather of Kolbus to answer this question and they have come up with very different views. Have a read and then why not use the comments facility to add to the debate? 

James says

"Is 3D print part of the communications and marketing industry?

2D print is clearly thought of as part of the industry. There are times that is not. Printing a solid block of colour for a wrapper or printing a geometric wallpaper but there are many applications of 2D print that are clearly in the communications and marketing space.

3D print is no different. There are times where 3D print is additive manufacturing of parts that would be uneconomical or impossible to create using other methods. There are many applications of 3D print that are clearly in the communications and marketing space.

3D models, for example, bring complex drawings to life in a way that clearly communicates. Take the recent regeneration of Victoria station in London as an example. A complex set of sub-terrestrial tunnels interweave and change elevation. Depicting changes to tunnels or additions to tunnels with a set of 2D drawings is an incredibly challenging task. 3D Printing out the finished project and colour coding the additions and changes allows one to instantly understand and communicate this complex project.


It is rare for a marketing suite for a building development not to have a 3D contextual model. Potential customers want to understand where unit are in the development. The model allows the marketor to communicate more effectively than the alternative of using a book of drawings.

Outside the models space, prototypes, design concepts, art and marketing merchandise are all frequent uses of 3D print that are more effective methods of communication and marketing in the right circumstances. The answer to the question is clear."

Robert says

"Why additive manufacturing isn’t printing?

Additive manufacturing is a transformative engineering technology which allows physical products to be manufactured which cannot be economically made by another process. It has huge potential in the fields of prototyping, medical implants tailored to the individual and in creating shapes which cannot be manufactured using conventional techniques. It also has potential in reducing stock holdings where a large uneconomic batch must be processed just to supply a small quantity. It can even be used for art! The wide range of materials which can be processed gives it enormous potential for development. But is it printing?

Printing is a two dimensional process for reproducing using ink, text and images using a master form or template. Nowadays this master is often in an electronic digital form but the principle still applies. In Stationers' parlance this is best defined as content and communication and the end product is text and images in ink on a substrate.

Additive Manufacturing is a three dimensional process for reproducing in a wide range of materials, products using a digital file. Traditional engineering, metal cutting and forming processes have been using this 3 D technology in reverse for decades and this is just yet another manufacturing option. The only common feature is that there is a digital file required but there the similarity ends. The end product of this process is the object itself and not just the text and images on the surface.

The battleground:-

  • 2D v 3D
  • Ink v Range of materials
  • Text and image on a substrate v the object itself

Using the Stationers' own definition of our industries as content and communications it is quite clear that this process falls outside our remit. Additive manufacturing is clearly part of the engineering industry and is incorrectly labelled as a printing process."

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