When you walk into the Florida Polytechnic University 3D Printing Laboratory, you first notice the distinct humming sound that accompanies the state-of-the-art technology. It’s the sound of plastic filament feeding through a moving brass tip, where it is melted and turned into whatever component has been designed on a nearby computer.
There’s been a lot of noise in the lab lately with more than 1,000 print jobs completed since the start of 2018, ranging in size from keychains to a scale model of a SpaceX rocket that featured over 140 pieces. The lab, located on the first floor of the IST Building, is one of seven innovation labs where students are empowered to bring their ideas to life and help drive Florida Poly’s innovation-focused STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum.
Hundreds of students rely on the lab to complete class projects, which can entail printing a mount, a casing or a device itself. Faculty and staff also call upon the lab to design trophies, for example, for a variety of events. Another critical service the lab provides is access for industry. Recently, a company tasked Florida Poly with developing alternatives to replacement parts for one of their machines.
“The 3D printing lab is vital for providing Florida Poly’s students with a high-impact STEM education,” said Robert Austin, instructor of physics at Florida Poly. “Apart from the obvious benefits resulting from the great reduction in the time it takes to go from the design to the fabrication of complex shapes, we must recognize that, thanks to the rapid evolution of 3D printing technology, the days of centralized manufacturing are numbered, as the possibility for printing useful parts at the point of use grows.”
If you’ve stopped by the lab lately, chances are you’ve seen Moshe Acevedo. The junior has worked there as a lab assistant for almost two years and is involved with virtually every project that comes in.
“Florida Poly students have a lot of class projects as well as personal ideas for innovation,” said Acevedo, a Brooklyn, New York, native majoring in electrical engineering. “It’s really important for people to know the university has tools and systems to help students experience new technology, and the 3D printing lab is one of those spaces.”
The process for transforming imagination into reality is as simple as emailing a suitable design to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The whole point is to have the resources and internal expertise so when a student has a good idea they can quickly follow up on it,” said Ryan Darley, an academic success coach at Florida Poly who also oversees the 3D printing lab. “The 3D printing lab is open to all students, who are welcome to stop in and explore. We’re here to help.”
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