Technology & Design Focus

Blog post written by Rebecca Dorman (Year 13 pupil and member of the RSA Media Team)

If you are willing to traverse the twenty-eight concrete steps behind the central school, you will be greeted by the RSA Technology Department in all its red brick glory. Opened in June 2001, the still relatively new building contains two main workshops, an IT suite, and a smaller design area for older students.

Due to the current circumstances, KS4 and A-Level pupils have not been able to fully engage with the tools available in the workshops; instead, they are focusing on the more theoretical side of the design process. Unfortunately, this means the newest additions to the department will be left on the sidelines until further notice. A CNC laser cutter and 3D printer have been recently installed, devices that vastly improve production times and complete designs that were previously too awkward to do by hand. But what exactly are these new machines and why on earth is everyone so excited by them?

Blog post written by Sarah Johnston (Year 13 pupil and member of the RSA Media Team)

As the name suggests, a laser cutter employs a laser to cut materials into various shapes and designs. The carbon dioxide light beam is focused on a small area using a lens and reflector, reducing material distortion and zones affected by heat. Its high concentration of energy enables rapid local heating and subsequently melts the desired area of the material. As the laser cutter is programmed by computer numeric control, it can produce complex designs consistently and with great accuracy. Other advantages include: edges of a higher quality, less material waste, and increased operator safety. Although this last point may seem a little ironic (as the process revolves around literal lasers), the entire procedure takes place safely behind a screen. There is no risk to the user as they can confidently sit to the side and watch as the fruits of their labours are crafted before their very eyes.

Once again, the function of a 3D printer is fairly self-explanatory. A digital design is created in a three-dimensional modelling programme before being converted into a digital file. This file proceeds to slice the model into hundreds or thousands of layers to be read by the printer. These layers are printed individually and blend seamlessly between each other, creating a smooth 3D object identical to the original model. Anything from a house to a knee replacement can be produced using this method: as of 2018 tissue can be printed directly into a patient’s body during transplant procedures. The possibilities are limitless.

The fundamental importance of Technology and Design is its ability to provide practical solutions for seemingly impossible problems. With any luck, the coming years will allow us to employ every tool at our disposal to better understand the world around us and craft our way into the future.