September 24, 2013

Career center students using 3-D printer

Career center students using 3-D printer

By Amie Sites Pharos-Tribune

---- — A hand, mandible, soccer ball and gear shifts.

These items sitting in Tony Maple's classroom at the Century Career Center may seem normal, but they are not.

Made from a 3-D solid model printer, they represent an opportunity not many high school students will have.

The $30,000 printer was purchased with two federal grants, including a $15,000 Technology Resource grant.

"We're exposing people to new technology that is used in businesses or by manufacturers," said James Little, director of Century Career Center. "We're constantly trying to incorporate technology."

It's a technology Maple, who teaches computer-aided design and three engineering classes, is happy to have.

The printer has been up and running for a little more than a week, and it's used by students in engineering design and development, intro to engineering design, computer-aided design and principles of engineering.

Students using Autodesk Inventor to design the objects and then the printer begins, using plastic and a white powder.

"Anything you can draw, it will print," Little said.

Although students are just beginning to learn how to use the printer, Maple is anticipating to continuing partnering with other classes in the Century Career Center. A nursing class might need an object like a mandible and an automotive class might need a model.

Items created will go along with the class curriculum, providing hands-on experience, Maple said.

The length of time it takes to make a project varies a lot on the height, Maple said. A smaller object might take two hours, where a large object could take an entire evening.

After an object is printed, compressed air is used in an enclosed compartment to clean off the design. After that, the item is treated with a super glue-like product that bonds the liquid and powder.

Area manufacturers and businesses use similar printers, Maple said.

"It's great they're being exposed to the technology early," Maple said.

Doug Schroder, president of Royal Center Tool and Molding, knows the importance of the new technology. Schroder, who has two 3-D printers, said there has been an increase in their in the industry.

"It will teach students the new technology of 3-D printing," Schroder said. "The machines are used so much in the engineering phase of designing new projects, and that will be helpful."

Schroder said it is also helpful for students to have something in their hand to look at.

"They can sit down, design something, make a file, print it and see it come together,"Schroder said. "It's neat technology."

The machine will be helpful for students, especially when doing design work, Schroder said.

"It's a whole other dimension in the engineering process," Schroder said. "Students will know the technology and be able to use it."

Amie Sites is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or