3-D printing technology can change education

Imagine, you can create an image in your head and have a completed prototype in your hand that same day. This is now possible with a 3-D prototype printer.

“It’s a great tool to let your imagination go wild and get something real out of it,” said Robert Rumer, a physics and bioengineering professor at CLU.

California Lutheran University received a grant of $250,000 in 2011, helping boost education in scientific computing, which included the purchase of a 3-D printer located in the D Building.

This printer allows faculty and students to design physical models that are printed within hours of programming. Depending on the model, it can take three hours to complete a full, three-dimensional prototype.

Rumer explained the basics of how it works.

Students use a three dimensional computer-aided design program called Solid Works.

Once the program is designed and the dimensions are calculated, it is sent to the printer.

A thin layer of plastic powder is laid out and the machine draws the image onto the powder with the exact movement that a normal ink printer would do. But instead of ink, a special binding is used.

The process repeats, creating a successive amount of layers to build up, forming the object.

Students enrolled in honors, engineering and bioengineering classes get to work with this printer hands-on. The marble machine is what it is commonly used for at CLU.

Rumer said this gives students the understanding of engineering, and gets students working together and learning to collaborate.

Sophomore Madeline Harbach had hands-on experience with the printer when she was enrolled in an honors class.

“It was really exciting to see the [marble] machine be put together and watch it work,” said Harbach. “It was a super technical process. You had to go in with gloves and pick the dust off without breaking it. It was really fragile, but the machine could create some intricate pieces.”

The drawback is how much the machine costs in resources and maintenance.

“Our program got hammered by budgets. The way it is right now, I don’t know if we can use it in the future,” said Rumer.

3-D printers can greatly impact the classroom as we know it.

“It’s a valuable resource that allows us to visualize what we are seeing,” said sophomore Alastair Moody.

The overall product of this printer makes sense; you wouldn’t want to go into production without having a prototype completed.

This allows for a prototype to be ready for analyzing within the same day and allows faculty and students to have the opportunity to have their imaginations come to life.

 

Holly Dunn
Staff Writer
Published March 6, 2013