By Erica Setnick
Imagine you’re walking around the mall and come across phone chargers. You think, “Ugh, I do need another one. Mine just broke.” So you pay another $20 and think, “There has to be a better way.”
If you had your own way of producing a solution to your problem at your home or business, you’d save a lot of time and money. You wouldn’t need to buy a new part; you’d create one all on your own.
3D printing is your solution. It is the process of making three dimensional, solid objects from a digital state by melting and extruding materials. Think of how a hot glue gun works, but more precise.
With 3D printing, you have the freedom to replace a broken product, create a new one, or sell your creations and make a profit.
That’s exactly what DCCC engineering student, James Begley, did. Begley, 19, has worked as a production engineer at a subcontractor for Boeing since he was 14 years old. Begley said he 3D prints his own objects like iPhone cable protectors, random gadgets he needs around the house, or small parts for expanding his 3D printer.
“I would always find myself going back and forth between the Home Depot and other hardware stores,” Begley said. “I got tired of that and started creating the parts I needed from scratch, right in my own home.”
Begley and Kyle Malatesta, also an engineering major, have been creating a 3D printing club in Marple Campus’ Advanced Technology Center. The 3D Printing Club will be open to any age, grade, or major.
“The club will teach students how to use 3D printers,” Begley said. “We are [writing] the constitution for the club Sunday and after the paperwork is finished we will welcome members.”
Students will have access to two high- class printers, materials, and software. The students will be taught the fundamentals using printer kits sold by Begley’s website, theprintingbay.com.
According to a printing company, Sculpteo, the different materials that are used for 3D printing are plastics, glass, metals, polymers, human tissues and cells, wax, edible foods, and glue mixes. There are lots of different ways each material is used.
In the food industry, edible objects, like candies or desserts, can be created using a machine that is FDA approved. The ingredients will be melted into a yummy, gooey-like substance and then hardened accordingly.
According to Boeing’s website, they are using 3D printed plastics for non- critical airplane parts, like hinges and air ducts. “We have produced over 20,000 3D printed parts,” said a Boeing spokesperson.
Another use for 3D printing is the medical science and research industry, which is exploring a way to make artificial limbs for an amputee, or a strong beating heart or lung for surgeries.
This process is called 3D Bio Printing. It allows for the printing of cells to replicate human tissues, organs, and blood vessels
Eventually, 3D printing manufacturers expect their products will be as common as your standard printer.
Large, high-end 3D printers serve the needs of industry manufacturers. Medium size printers are used by businesses, and cheaper assembly 3D printer kits are used by hobbyists and entrepeneurs.Some students said they did not know what 3D printing was.
Most of the responses were along the lines of, “I’ve heard of it but don’t know much about it,” or, “It’s too advanced forme.”But Carly Guenther, a DCCC English major, said 3D printing could be very beneficial.
“I think 3D printing is going to be something that is incredibly useful and common in, hopefully, the near future, especially in terms of the medical uses it could produce,” said Guenther. “The sooner people can get a grasp on 3D printing and how it works, the sooner we can use it for the better of the world.”