By Anna Smisek – [email protected]

CSB/SJU students have recently been taking advantage of the 3-D printers available on campus to transform their ideas from paper to real, 3-D figures.

3-D printing has been a resource on both campuses since 2014, but most students are unaware of this opportunity. CSB/SJU currently has five printers, with more on the way.

3-D printers give students the chance to design and create custom products, and anyone can participate. The machine works by building the object layer-by-layer from a computer designed image. It uses wire-like filaments that are 100 microns wide. To put this into perspective, a strand of hair is 18 to 20 microns. These filaments are derived from cornstarch, making them biodegradable and low in cost.

The filaments are fed by a gear that fills slowly and preheats to around 410 degrees Fahrenheit. The object is then built from the bottom up for a time ranging anywhere from two to over 30 hours. For example, one item that took 30 hours was a prototype of a hand, made of multiple parts from multiple prints.

RACHEL KETZ • [email protected]
Functional hand prototype constructed by multiple prints from 3-D printers. This creation took 30 hours to complete.

Though the printer can be utilized by anyone, many departments have integrated it into their curriculum. For example, chemistry courses print chemical structures, the theater department uses it for set designs and biology courses create anatomical human parts.This is an essential tool for classrooms because students usually have to visualize a 3-D object on a screen or book, but now they are able to see it in person.

Currently, the education department is using the printers as a learning and teaching tool.

Professor Diana Fenton teaches a two-semester course that begins with the college students learning about the printers and ends with them teaching this knowledge to third graders. Their current project is designing an animal with a modification to help it survive.

“Students who work with 3-D printers now have a great advantage. They learn a lot, it helps them grow and everyone thinks it’s awesome” Fenton said.

Learning about these printers while in school helps students both professionally and personally. Digital Media Specialist Adam Konczewski says future technology will inevitably include 3-D printing, and obtaining this knowledge now gives students one step up in society. The printers are used as a major learning tool.

Outside of the classroom, the printers have also contributed to campus. For instance, the buttons on washing machines kept breaking, so a student designed a button residents could use instead of replacing the entire control panel.

There are endless possibilities when it comes to 3-D printing. This tool is employed in many professions including schools, the medical field, dentistry and clothing companies.

“If you can design it, you can build it. 3-D printing will be touching every part of the future; this is the beginning of a revolution,” Konczewski said.

The school is still developing. Media Services Manager Adam Bauer described how Virginia Technical Institute currently has a self-serve 3-D printer in their common area.

“We’re not there yet, but we’re definitely on our way,” Bauer said.

Until then, he emphasizes that all students should take advantage of the printers. At CSB, the printers are located across from the IT Help Desk in the Maker Space room and in Alcuin at SJU. Students are free to come and observe or to submit their own designs.

To have a design printed, students can contact Adam Konczewski ([email protected]) or submit a form located on the Media Services webpage.

Feature photo: RACHEL KETZ • [email protected]