3-D printing: from traffic cones to prosthetic hands

Megan Fischer

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(Photos by Megan Fischer and Maria Nateras).

A wack-a-mole project with professors’ heads as the moles was printed from a 3-D printer on campus as part of a student project.

Colorado State University students are creating gadgets with the available 3-D printing technology throughout campus, while using it for academic projects and professional research as well.

Senior mechanical engineering major Zach Carrizales hold a print out of a prosthetic hand he has created in the lab. (Photo Credit: Megan Fischer).
Senior mechanical engineering major Zach Carrizales hold a print out of a prosthetic hand he has created in the lab. (Photo Credit: Megan Fischer).

RamTech signed a retail sales contract with Aleph Objects to sell LulzBot 3-D printers, allowing anyone to buy the printers and supplies that are available for use in the Morgan Library and the Idea-2-Product lab in the engineering building.

“There’s lots of research and lots of development being done,” said Chris Chagnon, an administrative professional for Academic Computing and Networking Services in the Morgan Library. “Whether that be print organs, for example, or here, we print a lot of our own replacement parts for our printers when something goes wrong with them, so there’s a lot of different things you can do with them.”

The printer in the Morgan Library is available to all students, and Chagnon explained that it is very simple to use after taking a safety course. Currently, the courses are only being offered in the engineering lab, but will soon be available in the library as well.

“It’s important from the standpoint that there’s a lot of things all over in academic fields,” Chagnon said. “Not necessarily related to engineering, there’s a lot of different work applications that you use a 3-D printer for.” 

“There was a guy who was in here the other day who made an elephant, and that was kinda neat,” Chagnon said. “I’ve seen people make bowls and jars, which is kinda neat.”

Youssef Benchouaf, the full-time assistant IT coordinator for ACNS, described the usefulness of 3-D printing as a way to be able to replicate objects and replace parts for cheaper than it would be to buy them. 

“One project that comes to mind was a veterinary sciences group; they used the scanner to scan a canine skeleton, and they started with a leg,” Benchouaf said. “But, I believe over the course of a year, they actually built an entire skeleton. That is something that is actually a lot cheaper than having to purchase an actual skeleton.”

Students can create whatever they want from the software available, according the Chagnon. Scanners will soon be available for students to check out in order to duplicate objects.

According to Benchouaf, a student is using 3-D printing technology to create a new model of the CSU Mountain Campus, Pingree Park.

“Previously, they had a foam model, and it’s literally being eaten by squirrels,” Benchouaf said. “What they were going to do was print it in white and paint it after the fact, but now they’re printing it in sections, the whole thing will be 5-by-5 feet, and they are projecting colors and data sets onto it to show geospatial data layers.”

Zach Carrizales, a mechanical engineering senior, printed a model of a prosthetic hand in the Idea-2-Product lab. He is in his second year working in the lab.

“I want to go into prosthetics, and one thing that I’ve been trying to do is work on some new innovative ideas for that.”

According to Carrizales, the idea for 3-D printing is to move toward a common goal by improving quality and cost of objects, repetition is required to make it work.

3-D printing as a whole is much like playing a sport – you have to practice.

Collegian Reporter Megan Fischer can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @MegFischer04.