Three-dimensional printing, now available at BYU, is providing students and area residents with opportunities for learning and creativity.
Since YouTube videos of printed guns, toys, body parts, tools and figurines have circulated online, 3D printing has caught a lot of attention. While it might seem space-age or advanced to many BYU students, it has become readily available and user-friendly on campus.
There are three 3D printers in the Crabtree Technology Building’s rapid prototyping lab and one in the Harold B. Lee Library. These can now be used by any student on campus. Free designs can be downloaded from websites like thingiverse.com or developed using 3D imaging software. Faculty and students are excited about the opportunities this brings to the university.
“We wanted students to be able to put on their resumé that, from beginning to end, they’ve gone from the design stage to the production stage,” said Jed Johnstone, supervisor of the science and map help desk in the Harold B. Lee Library. The desk is home to a MakerBot Replicator 2, a smaller 3D printer.
Johnstone said students often use the printer because its location is frequently visited and its hours of operation work well with school schedules.
Three-dimensional printing allows affordable prototyping for students in many fields of study. According to Johnstone, art students use them for envisioning what a sculpture or animated character will look like. Engineering students have been known to use them for printing parts for projects; and many other students are using the printers for personal projects.
Braden Harter, a 21-year-old from Temecula, Calif., studying environmental science, said the technology is great for personal use.
“The first thing I printed was a little Buddha statue for my friend who spent a year and a half teaching English in China,” Harter said. “The other one I made was a little action figure of Admiral Ackbar from ‘Star Wars’.”
The Crabtree has had 3D printing available to engineering students since the 1990s. Therin Garrett, manager of operations for the rapid prototyping lab in the CTB, said that thanks to increased awareness and improvement of the technology, the 3D printers are more available.
“The operation of the lab is the same as at the Bookstore,” Garrett said. “Anybody is welcome, and all the prices are the same, whether the users are students, faculty members or people from off campus.”