New 3D printer lab open to all technology students - Purdue Exponent: Campus

New 3D printer lab open to all technology students

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Posted: Monday, February 10, 2014 10:00 am

If you have an idea you want to bring to life, there’s a new tool available at your disposal.

Purdue welcomed a new engineering marvel to campus last week, when a 3D printing lab featuring eight printers opened to students in Knoy Hall, room 155. Its accessibility and cheap printing costs have made it a very attractive addition to the College of Technology.

All students in the College of Technology are allowed to use the 3D printers. The lab will hopefully be made open to all undergraduate students in time. Even if you’re in a different college, you can still drop by and see the printers in action and play around with some examples of what they can print.

Mark Wuethrich, a junior in the College of Technology who recently transferred from Ivy Tech in Lafayette, didn’t have this kind of technology available to him at Ivy Tech. He wasn’t excited about 3D printing at Ivy Tech, but after some work in another Purdue lab last semester, he was convinced of its worth.

“Once you start making something yourself, you’re so proud of it,” Wuethrich said. “You can put time into it and see the results – actually hold it.”

Wuethrich also mentioned the ability for students to make some money off their hard work in the lab.

“If you make something other people want, you can sell it,” Wuethrich said. “There’s a website where you can upload the file for others to buy and print out. Like someone (designed) a 3D printed animal, and people want to buy it for their kid.”

To showcase the printers’ complexity, a lab attendant demonstrated a working, four-piece model of a gear shaft rotating freely along each piece’s gear teeth. Plenty of other models are still on display from Thursday’s open house, such as a miniature Starship Enterprise, a mount for a Go Pro camera, a plastic chain link and a simple card holder.

Davin Huston, a continuing lecturer in the department of electrical and computer engineering, oversees the daily operation of the lab. Since last May, he has worked with mechanical engineering technology associate professor Richard French to bring the lab to fruition.

“You can do almost anything you want,” Huston said. “It’s empowering ... We even have the ability to mass produce with this technology. We’re only confined by the size (of the model) here.”

Huston said the technology has been around for a couple of decades but has only been affordable for the past two or three years. Each printer costs only $2,100, far less than the other limited-access 3D printers on campus. The affordability goes beyond the initial investment price – models cost only 15 cents per gram, more than 20 cents per gram cheaper than a comparable lab in Armstrong Hall. Additionally, printers are compatible with any AutoCAD iteration and can accept SD memory cards plugged in directly.

Lab hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday. No appointment is required – students may simply walk in and log on to a computer.

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