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STC adds 3D printing

3D printer online
One of the three new 3-D printers in the Student Technology Center prints a miniature wine glass keychain for STC employee and Western freshman Kaleb Hebert on Tuesday, January 5. Photo by Ian Koppe

No longer will 3-D printers be confined to students in engineering and design fields at Western.

Three new 3-D printers and two 3-D scanners are now available to students in all areas of studies in the Student Technology Center in Haggard Hall.

However, the STC requires students to be trained before using the equipment. Instructional workshops for the 3-D printers and scanners will be available for students to attend free of charge through the STC. One free print will be offered for those attending the workshops.

The new equipment was purchased with $20,000 from the Student Technology Fee, as part of the WWU MakerSpace Grant proposed by students Max Smith and Bailey Jones.

Smith and Jones worked with the STC to form the details of the grant proposal.

Smith, who is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in manufacturing and supply chain management at Western, was studying industrial design while seeking the grant in spring 2015. Smith and Jones wanted to bring a new medium that could help students and teachers of all departments further their learning, Smith said.

Video by Tyler Hillis

“The overall goal of the proposal was to provide WWU students and faculty with tools to be creative and think outside the box,” Smith said in an email.

In their grant proposal, Smith and Jones envisioned a student in the chemistry department printing a model of a chemical formula or a computer science student using a 3-D scanner to implement real world objects into a video game.

The prints can be created three different ways: by using one of the new 3-D scanners, from scratch using a 3-D program, or by using an already existing model found online, Spencer Bui said.

When replicating an organic shape, using a 3-D scanner can speed up the design process, Barse said.

The printers use polylactic acid, which prints in thin layers. The STC chose this material because it is versatile and does not emit dangerous smells while printing, Barse said.

STC employees have been practicing on the printers to become comfortable with helping others use them. Bui, a technology assistant and hardware team leader at STC, said they first practiced by printing self-portraits from scanned images.

“We’ve been testing what works and what doesn’t work on our printers,” Bui said. “You have to calibrate it and make sure your settings are correct.”

Bui has created other prints such as little elephants, small figurines and a structure that holds his phone.

Other creations from the staff range from practical objects like a screwdriver, to objects for entertainment, including a miniature replica of the iron throne in “Game of Thrones” and robots from “Star Wars.”

Barse encourages professors to contact him to find ways to incorporate the printers into their classes at aj.barse@wwu.edu.



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