Beer.

The first beer could date back as far as 9500 BC and descriptions of that most ubiquitous brew appear in texts from ancient Iraq and Egypt. While the earliest known chemical evidence of beer from barley was found in the Godin Tepe in the Zagros Mountains of Iran, some ancient Sumerian writings reference beer in hymns and poems. The Epic of Gilgamesh is all about beer and even some of its less fortunate consequences.

Beer was the beverage of choice among Germanic and Celtic tribes in 3000 BC. Today, the brewing industry is largely controlled by a handful of multinational companies and some 35 billion gallons are sold every year.

While it's not possible to 3D print the venerable liquid, it is possible to use the technology to improve the brewing process, and a collaboration between Wintec and a New Zealand engineering firm might help make that process faster and more efficient.

John Cook, Managing Director of Stainless Design, said using 3D printing to create a nanobrewery part prototype is a revolution of sorts in the field of brewing. According to Cook, it let his firm send a printed prototype to the client for approval and the process obviated the need for tooling and molds.

"Because you're doing it layer by layer, it gives you far more flexibility," Cook said. "You can design chambers within the part. You can do all sorts of crazy things."

The Research Programs Manager for Wintec, Dr. Henk Roodt, agrees.

He said Stainless Design was first in line to use Wintec's printer and take a prototype design through to a finished product.

"It's not about coming up with new technologies ourselves," Roodt said. "We're about integrating this disruptive technology into our customers' existing designs and processes to help them make radical, positive changes that give them huge competitive advantages."

Cook added that one benefit of the process was that the resin the part was printed from meant the exact printed part could immediately be used in the finished product.