Public 3D Printing at Colgate

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If you’ve been on the fifth floor of Case-Geyer you may have seen, or heard, the row of FlashForge Creator Pro printers working away outside of the DLMC.  These are part of our public 3D printing resources offered by The Hub and The DLMC, and are an excellent resource to learn and develop additive manufacturing skills.  

3D printing technology has come a long way in recent years, and it is an essential tool for manufacturers, designers, and engineers to prototype projects. While 3D printing technology was once prohibitively difficult to use, it has become much more accessible in recent years, thanks in part to the rise of web and cloud based modeling tools that provide a low threshold entry for new learners, and consumer grade printers that offer a forgiving setup with a reasonably polished finished product.  

Our public 3D printing has had some really interesting use cases of late – both as part of course related content and as a vehicle for extracurricular activities that enrich the student learning experience.  A couple of examples include:

  1. A course that used 3D modeling and printing to take their conception of what an object from a work of fiction that they were reading for the course might look like and produce it in printed plastic.  
  2. A student producing a few custom designed pieces of infrastructure to experiment with robotic sensing for an idea that they had.  The printed pieces were part of a larger build that included sensors to help guide the robot as it navigated its environment.  
  3. A student producing a custom paperweight for their roommate as a gift.  

All of these examples were completed using the public printers available outside of the DLMC with the supplied PLA filament.  This setup provides a couple of great advantages for the campus Community: 

  1. Access – because printing is open to the community and we have some resources to assist with folks learning the needed software the barrier to learning how to print is very low.  Nearly anyone can get started designing and printing within an hour.  
  2. Skill Development – this is a marketable skill and one that encourages learning through a variety of pathways. The skills developed can be improved through the use of larger software ecosystems like AutoDesk (maker of AutoCAD and Fusion360), Trimble (geospatial and work optimization software) and Adobe (creative software)
  3. Differentiated Learning –  It’s great for learners that might understand best by doing, and can fit with both solitary and social learners.  Projects can stand alone as a learning experience, or be incorporated into larger projects as a component portion without tremendous overhead.  
  4. Sustainable – our printers are loaded with eco-friendly plant-based bioplastics that are recyclable and biodegradable.  We also maintain a recycling location directly next to the printers to encourage responsible use.  

Overall we’re really excited to offer these printing resources as part of our larger outreach plans.  If you have students that are interested in printing, we’re always happy to help!  Student staff at the DLMC are all experienced with the printers, and full time staff are available to teach individuals or groups.  If you’re thinking about incorporating 3D design or printing into your curriculum we’d love to hear from you!  Please contact Andrew Smith, Instructional Designer for Innovative Media to begin the conversation about how we can best collaborate.  

Andrew Smith