Anything from plastic phone cases to replacement body parts for medical use can be 3-D printed on campus by any Colorado State University student.
This fall, the use of new 3-D printing technology, equipment and software will be available to all students who take two safety classes. In the last several years, CSU has seen a general decline in the interest in the 3-D printing program, but new technological advances and interest in engineering has made the 3-D printing program a new focus among many students and staff.
The programs are re-launching after RamTech signed a retail sales contract with Aleph Objects to sell LulzBot 3-D printers. The contract allows anyone to buy the printers at RamTech, and also supplies a new printer to the Morgan Library. Printers are also available for use in the engineering lab.
Diane Noren, a manager for Academic Computing Network Services, has been working in RamTech to help with 3-D printer sales. According to Noren, the printers range in cost from $1,350 to $2,000, depending on the size of the printer.
Although the printers in the engineering building require a monthly fee and are part of a specialized program called Idea-2-Product, printing in the library is free as long as students provide their own materials.
“Departments all around campus will be able to utilize this technology for free,” said Youssef Benchouaf, a full-time assistant IT coordinator for ACNS. “Anybody will be able to use the printers come September, all they have to do is take a safety class and buy their own printing materials, which are surprisingly cheap and available at RamTech and online.”
The tasks the printers can be used for are extensive, and they have already been used for a variety of things, according to Benchouaf.
“The coolest thing I have ever seen someone make on the printer is a prosthetic arm,” Benchouaf said. “I have also seen people make liners for the insides of helmets — there are so many things to create.”
The printers can be used to create moving parts that would usually need to be made in multiple pieces, but can now be made in just one step and for a much lower cost.
According to Chris Chagnon, a full-time assistant IT coordinator for ACNS, this is a common use for engineering and science students alike.
“I have seen students making 3-D versions of different bones in the body or full-scale models of hands, skulls and more,” Chagnon said. “In engineering, they make parts for machines that they are building.”
Chagnon frequently works with with the printers.
The new printer and improved technology will be available to everyone on campus come mid-fall, and all it takes to use them is the two safety classes.
“The programing behind these machines is very complicated, but using it is easy,” Benchouaf said. “Anybody can use it whether it’s for a class, project or just for fun.”
Collegian Reporter Allec Brust can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @brustyyy.