3D printers give engineering classes a boost

Next, they approach CAD modeling software and using advanced engineering tools. They expand on their initial Lego structure and create a brand new building block. Jump used to create the blocks from student prototypes after school, but using a 3D printer both saves Jump valuable time and immerses students in the learning and creating process.

Higher education’s 3D printing applications

North Carolina State University’s Department of Industrial Design (ID) focuses on solving problems in fields such as transportation design and medical instrumentation. Students use prototyping to come up with creative and practical solutions.

Spencer Barnes, an adjunct assistant ID professor who teaches a course in advanced digital product modeling, challenged his students to create posable action figures using a 3D modeling program and a Dimension 3D printer. The challenge would help students use workflow manipulation to complete the task as efficiently as possible.

Students chose characters to model or designed their own, and then drew sketches to help with the modeling process. Using CatalystTM, which is Dimension software that converts the models into a printable file format, the models were sent to the 3D printer and printed, where students then prepared the models for presentation.

Barnes said he used the 3D printer to help students focus on certain design aspects, such as how the action figures’ moving parts worked together and how the figures balanced.

All of the students effectively produced posable action figures, and Barnes said the entire process was cost-effective and quick.

3D printers help designers “to efficiently visualize their ideas,” he said, adding that the printers give designers an accuracy level that allows them to evaluate and refine models.

Laura Ascione

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