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For Immediate Release
April 8, 2014

3D Printing: Teaching Through Trinkets

3D printing is one of the newer technologies featured at The College at Brockport. From small tchotchke’s to medical grade implants, 3D printing can find its place in almost any field. The users at Drake Memorial Library have been experimenting with the possibilities of the MakerBot Replicator 2.

Story by Rachel Baldwin, College Communications Intern

Brockport, NY - Since Chuck Hall’s patent on 3D printing expired in 2004, users like the Drake Memorial Library at The College at Brockport have been able to adopt this new technology. Drake started using the printer during the fall 2013 semester.

Brockport students Brian Fitzgerald ’14 and Evan Spencer '17 shared their presentation, 3D Printing: Teaching Through Trinkets, during Scholars Day 2014. Kenneth Wierzbowski, Systems and Assessment Librarian at Drake, said that 3D printing is like “a precise hot glue gun.” The plastic resin is fed through the printer, heated up, and carefully dropped on to the work area 1 mm at a time. To put that in perspective, one piece that was getting printed was only at 15 percent completion, and had already been printing for 51 minutes.

To print an object from the 3D printer you have to draw something yourself on a program such as Google Sketchup, use a 3D scanner, or download a blueprint from a website like Thingiverse. Then, a software like MakerWare gets the sketch ready for printing, and sends it to the printer. Then, you wait.

“If you can think it, you can make it,” said Fitzgerald.

Drake’s main focus for the 3D printer is to expose students to this technology. In the future professors could use 3D printing as a learning tool. An anthropology class could replicate artifacts to be passed around and examined. An art class could create a 3D blueprint, troubleshoot, and print a finished product. A business student could even create a product with a tangible prototype to present to their class.

Smaller printers, like the one at Brockport, specialize in customized niche items like Invisalign, or rapid prototypes for businesses. There are a few highlights from the objects Drake Library has printed—replacement parts to fix their 3D printer, a gyroscopic model of an atom and a working train whistle. These printers work with a bioplastic derived from corn. Larger printers can work with metal, or implant-grade materials. Spencer said “they could replace the jawbone identically” in a woman who had broken hers beyond repair. There is also an instance where a woman had her entire skull rebuilt by a 3D printer because hers had a defect.

Fitzgerald said the greatest use of the 3D printer is simply the “spark in creativity.”

The future for 3D printing could be game-changing. Spencer said that NASA and the United States government have been investing heavily in this technology. As Wierzbowski put it, “the limits are your imagination!”

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The College at Brockport, State University of New York
350 New Campus Drive * Brockport, New York 14420-2931
(585) 395-2754 * FAX (585) 395-2723 * www.brockport.edu

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