July 14, 2014
COPY BY: Rana McDonald, 806-651-2129, email@example.com
WTAMU Students Use Engineering Know-How to Build 3D Printers
CANYON, Texas—It was a semester of trial and error and reconfigurations, but five West Texas A&M University students are well ahead of the curve when it comes to real-world technology after completing an engineering project that has garnered two 3D printers for the School of Engineering and Computer Sciences.
Each semester students in Dr. Emily Hunt’s mechanical engineering design class are divided into groups to work on special semester-long projects. This spring, one group of five students chose a 3D printer build project because of the technology involved, and they knew a completed printer would be a useful tool for the engineering program.
The technology behind 3D printing is still relatively new, but it’s expected to have a major impact on the manufacturing and design world as that technology advances. It’s a form of printing that creates solid three-dimensional objects a layer at a time to make everything from key chains to body parts. In fact, one group of students in Hunt’s fall 2013 design class built a robotic hand using a 3D printer. As one student in the 3D printer build project said, “if you can draw it, you can build it,” with a 3D printer.
And the group wanted to build printers capable of printing everything, but also ones that would be user friendly and cost effective. The five students—Ivette Bravo, Camron Bevington, Craig Carlton, Juan C. Ramirez and Doug Todd—used their engineering skills to build two functional 3D printers. Students and faculty in the department now will be able to use the group’s Portable Delta 3D and/or Eventorbot printers to work on future projects, and both are user friendly and cost effective.
“The whole aspect of 3D printing is amazing,” Carlton said.
The five-member team initially thought the printer build would be a simple one, but that assumption changed once they got into the mechanics of the project. That and time constraints plagued the semester project, but the team worked together to research and analyze what would and wouldn’t work. When the actual build began, the group used an existing 3D printer to create more than 60 percent of the parts needed to build their printers. Once the printers were built, the team ran multiple tests to make sure all of the printed parts worked together, and modifications were made to ensure the quality and speed of items being printed.
“This is an exciting project because it will really change things for current and future engineering students,” Hunt, director of the School of Engineering and Computer Science, said. “Our goal is for students at any level to be able to use creative design and 3D modeling in conjunction with the printers to see their design through to a final product. Engineering students can leave class with physical evidence of their learning. This group of senior mechanical engineering design students has developed a project that will have a lasting impact for the School of Engineering and Computer Science.”