3-D Printing Available to NDSU Architecture Students

MATAYA ARMSTRONG | THE SPECTRUM NDSU is keeping up with the times, as their latest technology edition includes six printers with three-dimensional production capabilities.
MATAYA ARMSTRONG | THE SPECTRUM
NDSU is keeping up with the times, as their latest technology edition includes six printers with three-dimensional production capabilities.

NDSU’s Technology Fee Advisory Committee provided a $15,000 grant to install the MakerBot Rep­licator 2 printers, and there are plans to expand the tech­nology further in the near future. Five printers are lo­cated at Renaissance Hall and one at Klai Hall.

Currently, architecture and landscape architecture students are permitted to use the technology, but plans are being coordinated with the library through the NDSU Impact grant to make the equipment available to all students.

With the addition of 3-D printers, students can now bring their designs to life in plastic. The material used to create the printed designs is a biodegradable thermo­plastic filament called poly­lactic acid, which is derived from corn. The scrap mate­rials could be composted, but instead researchers are working towards recycling the leftovers into new fila­ment — greatly reducing costs. Additional testing will be done to increase mate­rial varieties to enhance the strength of the product cre­ated from the printers.

Models are submitted to the printer through a Se­cure Digital card, and from there layers of filament are applied as thin as the width of a single sheet of paper. The printer heats the poly­lactic acid to 450 degrees, yet re-solidifies quickly and releases no fumes. The cost of a MakerBot runs at $2,300, and the price of a single scroll of polylactic acid is $25 — which will last through about a month of printing.

3-D printing allows stu­dents to create molds that were previously unachiev­able by traditional wood­shop and laser cutting meth­ods.

“There’s obstacles in the woodshop,” said fifth-year architecture student Casey Cotcamp.

Department of architec­ture and landscape archi­tecture computer specialist Ben Bernard added: “Some­thing that can’t be made in the shop is easily accessible through 3-D printing. It’s often referred to as a ‘rapid prototyping tool.’ If I have a design idea, I can complete it that day and know what’s working and what isn’t. That way I can be onto my next idea regarding that design.”

Bernard stressed the ben­efits this technology could hold for students of all ma­jors.

“There’s lots of opportu­nities for students,” he said, “such as entrepreneurs who want to design a product and wish to print a prototype.”

Working with innovative technology will prepare stu­dents for a more successful future, as demonstrated by recent NDSU graduate John Schneider, who recently opened Fargo 3-D Printing after using the technology at NDSU.

“People will be able to find inspiration and use it more as a tool to complete what they’re trying to por­tray as visual artists,” Cot­camp said.

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