3D printers give engineering classes a boost

Engineering, Harmon said, has two challenges, the first of which is that it is tough to master. The second is that “when you’re younger, it’s relatively difficult to see the fruits of your labors; it all tends to be equations and diagrams. Having a 3D printer and saying, ‘Hey, look at what I created,’ is pretty amazing for a student,” Harmon said.

High schools are taking advantage of using CAD with 3D printers, as are institutions of higher education. Harmon said some middle schools use the technology, but it’s rare, because “CAD itself is not exceptionally simple.”

For instance, a color 3D printer would allow students to print out molecules for science classes, or different maps showing population, demographics, and terrain.

Z Corporation’s color 3D printers range from $15,000 to $60,000, Harmon said, with a larger machine, higher resolution, and finer printing details contributing to a higher cost. Harmon estimated that about 35 percent of the company’s business comes from high schools, vocational technology schools, and universities.

3D printing in high schools

Bruce Weirich, a computer and drafting instructor at Ontario High School in Mansfield, Ohio, wanted to use a 3D printer in his classroom but lacked the budget to purchase one.

He turned to Jay Plastics, a local auto industry parts supplier. Jay Plastics financed the Spectrum Z510 color 3D printer from Z Corporation, and in return, Weirich’s students create and print prototypes for Jay Plastics.

Laura Ascione

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