It used to be the stuff of 1960s science fiction but selective laser melting, more commonly known as 3D printing or additive manufacturing, is real and taking off in New Zealand thanks in part to the Titanium Industry Development Association (TiDA).

The association's work in titanium powdered metals technology has helped to produce an array of products, from medical devices and sports equipment to aircraft and marine components. Jewellery, art, tools, machine parts, and even body parts can be recreated using 3D printing while companies can test dozens of models for new products at a fraction of the time and cost it used to take. The next frontier in 3D printing is in houses, cars, mobile phones, drugs and even food. This burgeoning industry was the theme of the second International Powder Processing, Consolidation and Metallurgy Titanium Conference held in Hamilton, in December 2013.

Event: International Powder Processing, Consolidation and Metallurgy Titanium Conference
Delegates: 80 delegates
Destination: Hamilton, New Zealand
Duration: 2-4 December, 2013
Venue: University of Waikato
Accommodation: Novotel Tainui Hamilton, Ibis Tainui Hamilton and University halls of residence

Hosted by TiDA and the University of Waikato, the conference attracted 80 delegates from around the world, including the United States, China, South Africa, Poland, Germany – hosts of the next conference in 2016 - and Australia, which hosted the inaugural conference in 2011. Delegates were made up of professors, researchers, PhD candidates in engineering, and other representatives from academic institutions. They heard from keynote speakers on new initiatives in the industry in two lecture rooms at the university’s S block, where each room catered to 80 people theatre-style. Some delegates stayed on campus in the halls of residence while others were picked up and dropped off in the city at the 4-star Novotel Hotel and its sister the Ibis. The formal welcome dinner was held at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts Centre on campus which can hold 300 banquet-style.

One day trip included a visit to TiDA’s research lab and 3D machinery facilities in Tauranga and a tour at Page Macrae powder coatings facility. The day out also took in sites at neighbouring Mount Maunganui beach and local shopping. There was also a chance to view an engineering lab on campus grounds. Delegates also participated in a pre-conference tour to Waitomo Caves, an hour south of Hamilton, where caving tours include the stunning Waitomo Glowworm Caves, black water rafting, wild caving and more. There was also the chance to visit Hobbiton in Matamata, where parts of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy and The Hobbit was filmed. The former film set for the hobbit village The Shire is a permanent fixture on a Matamata farm and is just under an hour’s drive from Hamilton.

TiDA in-house conference organiser Angela Werder said the University of Waikato was an affordable, well-organised conference venue. “The University of Waikato is a great conference location. The catering was superb. There were many lecture room options at an affordable price and very inexpensive accommodation at the halls of residence. University of Waikato also has an arts centre for a more formal conference option, and the catering there was also very professional. Hamilton is easy to reach from Auckland, only one-and-a-half hours’ (drive). Novotel and Ibis offer good hotel options with two price points.”

Summary: The University of Waikato in Hamilton played perfect host to 80 delegates and experts at the International Powder Processing, Consolidation and Metallurgy Titanium Conference in December 2013.