3D Printer An Instant Resource for Ingenious Ideas

When a MakerBot 3D printer arrived in the Technology Education department in Northern Valley Regional High School in January, senior Matt had an instant resource for a project he is working on in his Theory of Production class. Matt is working on a prototype for a device intended to help young children learn to write their letters more carefully and neatly. In December he had sent some designs he created in Google Sketchup, a 3D CAD program, to Belgium to be 3D printed at a relatively low cost. But, when they arrived back in New Jersey the parts were incorrect. Now he can revise those designs and print them up in his own classroom in just an hour or two.

Another senior Jake was instantly intrigued by the new printer.  Over a recent school break he had taken a trip to see a factory store where 3D printers are made and the resource also caught his eye when he visited the Mechnaical Engineering department at the University of Michigan. Within only a few days Jake was printing his ingenious idea: a plastic mold for a truffle lollipop for his foods class.  Now he and others can draw their ideas in a 3D CAD program like Sketchup and have a physical piece printed up within a matter of minutes or hours.

The new 3D printers are now a valuable resource for all classes in the Technology Education department and are certain to help students connect with some cross-disciplinary project ideas. The printer takes a spool of ABS plastic filament and heats and extrudes it to a platform. The extruder is similar to the print head of an inkjet printer, but the platform slowly raises as the object is being built in order to allow for the thickness of the object to be built up little by little. Although it may take a part the size of a few cubic inches an hour or a few to be printed, it is still an excellent opportunity to be able to rapidly prototype a part for a design project to a printer of a relatively low cost.



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