If you can think it, you can print it. That’s the beauty of 3D printers like the ones we have available right here on campus.
3D printers, or programmable machines used to create objects out of various mediums such as plastic, ceramics, metal and wood, were first invented in the 1980s and now serve important roles in bringing creative ideas and projects to life.
According to Harvard Business Review, companies such as GE, Boeing, Invisalign and Google use 3D printing or additive manufacturing to speed up business production.
With the versatility of 3D printers, the options are endless. Student at BYU-Idaho can learn firsthand how to create 3D prints of their own.
“I love how creative you can be,” said Thomas Hornberger, a junior studying mechanical engineering. “I love how you can go in these labs and make whatever you want. If you’ve got an idea, you can make it happen and come to life.”
BYU-Idaho students have access to on-campus 3D printers for respective projects. 3D printers are available to all students in the Mac lab on the first floor of the David O. McKay Library. They are also accessible to engineering students in the Mark Austin Building.
Students enrolled in courses with 3D printing as a part of the curriculum have priority on the campus printer waiting lists, but all students are allowed to send in a file to get something printed.
Loralee Price, a Mac lab assistant, explained how there are two different types of 3D printers accessible in the Mac lab — the Prusa and the Lulzbot.
The Prusa is more suitable for small printing projects while the Lulzbot can handle bigger, more detailed-oriented jobs.
Price said printing 3D objects cost money, but she also emphasized the affordability of 3D printing, especially for décor projects. She has utilized the printers herself to create a bookstand and a bowl.
“It does cost money,” Price said. “It depends on how long it’s going to take and how big it is. But the super intricate temples we’re doing right now are $2 each, and they’re going to look really good.”
While 3D printers can create anything they are programmed to print, they are not yet advanced enough to create structural products because of limitations in the medium and size of the print. However, pieces of a larger object can be printed one by one and then assembled.
“3D printers are not really made to create structural things, but they’re certainly good at creating patterns that we can use to create structural things,” said Aaron Schellenberg, a mechanical engineering professor.
3D printers offer engineers a customizable, time-effective method for creating molds and patterns for various structural projects.
Schellenberg shared there are existing 3D printers that can create structural products; however, they are very expensive — upwards of $200 million. Even the smaller printers like the ones available on campus cost thousands of dollars.
While these elaborate printers may be available to students one day, the 3D printers accessible on campus have much to offer. Student access to 3D printers as a campus resource should not be taken for granted.
From mini temples to cutlery to a desktop pencil holder, there are many gifts and practical products that can be created in the Mac lab.