The future is here, and it sits on the third floor of the Joann Cole Mitte Building.
Students in the School of Art and Design have had access to a three-dimensional printer beginning this semester for “curricular-based” projects, said Beverly Penn, professor for the School of Art and Design. The 3-D printer was purchased in November for about $2,200. The printer has taken students’ art to “the next level,” said Nicole DesChamps-Benke, senior lecturer in the same school.
The printer is helping students save time while working on projects. Students previously had to send their art projects to a 3-D printer off campus in order to have them designed and constructed, said Gabriel Glenn, communication design junior.
“It gives us a solution to do rapid prototyping,” Glenn said.
Much like Microsoft Word, students use software on computers in the Joann Cole Mitte Building to generate data for the objects they want to create. The data is sent to the new printer, called the Makerbot Replicator 2, and is then printed out three-dimensionally, DesChamps-Benke said.
Glenn said the 3-D printer processes the file and prints it in segments. Each piece is printed layer-by-layer, taking 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size and material used.
The printer commonly builds models and molds using plastic that can then be cast into bronze or sterling silver, Penn said. Different translucent and solid colors are available for students to use as well, she said.
Similar to the color printer in the Print Center at Joann Cole Mitte, students are charged for each three-dimensional piece they create, Glenn said. Pricing is based on the material used, he said.
“It is a quick way to come up with a prototype, so you can determine size, scale, shape and spatial relationships before you go into reproducing that part of something very expensive,” DesChamps-Benke said. “You can see (the prototype) first hand in the three-dimension.”
Three-dimensional printing has been around for 10 years and is becoming more accessible, Penn said. Last year, Penn took a developmental leave from teaching to research the technology, write grants to procure the equipment at Texas State and begin writing new curriculum to implement 3-D printing in the classroom.
“Having a three-dimensional printer here in the building gives us the ability to do ‘on the fly’ design for new types of prototypes,” Glenn said.
DesChamps-Benke is the campus expert “fluent” in using the printer, Penn said. Since obtaining the device, DesChamps-Benke has begun incorporating 3-D printing into curriculum for her classes.
DesChamps-Benke said students in her classes are given a conceptual problem to solve as part of an assignment using the 3-D printer. Each assignment has technical requirements, some of which incorporate the 3-D aspect, she said.
“It’s another tool. It’s a different way of doing things,” DesChamps-Benke said. “Everything’s moving into technology, and this allows them another skill set they can incorporate into their work.”
Since the printer is used on a curriculum basis only, students cannot just use the printer at will, Penn said.
“There’s a critical, individual, creative, conceptual, problem-solving aspect to using the printer,” Penn said. “The technology is becoming really innovative now.”
The Makerbot Replicator 2 can perform a variety of functions. Often, students will build a project using wire, and then print it to be able to directly see how it translates in 3-D, DesChamps-Benke said.
“The sky is really the limit,” Glenn said.