3-D Printing comes to the School of Technology | Schools
Architectural and engineering design students in the Design Technology Program at the Shelby County School of Technology now have access to a Stratasys uPrintSE 3-D printer giving them the ability to create fully functional prototypes of practically any idea or design they can imagine. Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing allows students to test the form, fit and function of their virtual 3-D computer models by literally “printing “ an object using ultra-thin layers of melted plastic to build up the design. At the same time, students gain practical real-world insight into the importance of teamwork and collaboration on complex multi-part designs.
According to instructor Steve Brooks, one such project involved second year mechanical design students at the SOT who were tasked with creating specific parts of a high-precision cutting device used in the manufacture of medical equipment. The students created 3-D computer models of their assigned parts using Autodesk Inventor software, then “printed” the separate components on the 3-D printer.
“When the components were assembled, the students were surprised to learn that some of the parts did not fit together properly, preventing the prototype device from functioning as it should,” explained Brooks. “This led to a collaborative ‘trouble-shooting’ effort where the students studied the flawed components, pinpointed the design errors and made the necessary changes to the affected 3-D computer models. When the components were re-printed on the 3-D printer, the prototype fit together properly indicating the students had succeeded in their trouble-shooting and re-design efforts.”
3-D printing is one of the fastest growing technologies in manufacturing and was mentioned by President Barack Obama in his most recent State of the Union address as a technology that would "revolutionize the way we make almost everything."
“I found that having a 3-D printer is great experience because my classmates and I get to see what we design on the computer as an actual physical model,” said Kyle Partridge, a senior from Calera High. “As one of our projects in class we all designed a medical tool saw and made all of the parts for it and then printed it out. But the catch was each person that worked on it printed out different parts so our parts had to be correct or the prototype would not work. That is what happened but we were then able to find the mistakes and print out the corrected parts. This project helped us see what it would be like on a project in the real world and it would not have been possible without the 3-D printer.”