DIY souvenirs at design research conference

Delegates can 3D print their own takeaway from three-day event

Date posted

22 March 2017


Last updated

14 June 2022

An Edinburgh Napier PhD student is giving delegates at a design conference the chance to create their own souvenir of the event.

Student Denise Allan will work with attendees at Research Through Design 2017 in Edinburgh to help them design and 3D scan a unique item to mark their visit to the conference.

Taking place on the Thursday of the event (23 March), delegates will be able to attend a special session where they will be encouraged to design a memento of the conference out of Plasticine.

The Plasticine item will then be scanned using a bespoke 3D scanner, before eventually being 3D printed to create a unique souvenir of their day.

The idea for the session stems from Denise’s own use of 3D printing, with her current PhD focusing on the impact this technology, and other digital making tools, has on social capital when used in an educational environment. She also runs her own business – Wee Replicators – which gives children the opportunity to design and create using 3D printers.

Alongside allowing delegates to create their own item linked to their experiences at the conference, the project will also help create a visual archive for the event, with all designs available online to print after it has taken place.

She said: “We want delegates to make something that represents their experience of the conference. 3D printing is a fun and engaging way for people to get hands-on to help create an artefact which will also be used to document the conference– the event is taking place in a museum so it seems appropriate to create a personalised souvenir!

“3D printing is continuing to grow as more and more people recognise its capabilities. Through my own studies and business, I’m keen to highlight not just the practical elements, but the role it can have in social situations. Sessions like these can really make a difference in helping people communicate and work with others – its benefits are far more than simply its design capabilities.”

Edinburgh Napier at Research Through Design 2017

Initially a Product Design student at Edinburgh Napier, Denise went on to complete an honours degree in Design and Digital Arts. It was during this time that she started experimenting with 3D printing, with her final year project focusing on making the technology more accessible in everyday life.

Working alongside a chef, a carer and a scientist, she helped produce over 40 3D printed designs that would make their day-to-day life easier. From a clip to stop a dog lead from pulling to a teddy bear made from thermochromic plastic that would change colour when cold to help understand when individuals with learning difficulties need support, the uses for the new technology were endless.

She added: “There remains a stereotype that 3D printing is a bit of a gimmick but through my own use I’ve found practical examples where it has helped make people’s lives that little bit easier. There is still work to be done to alter this preconception but as the technology continues to advance, I’m hopeful that this will change.”

Hosted by Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh College of Art), Research Through Design (RTD) 2017 will take place at the National Museum of Scotland between 22-24 March. It will bring together a number of the UK’s leading design academics who are set to share their research through an experimental conference format.

Tickets for the conference are on sale and includes discount for students looking to attend. The full programme for RTD 2017 is available here.