A 3-D Revolution

Science and Tech
November 04, 2013

Engineering printer in the School of Science, Engineering and Technology

St. Mary’s Engineering Lab Keeps Pace with Technology Trend

by Chris Jarvis

The technology of 3-D printers has been common in the news, with their ability to make just about anything from dental prosthetics to acoustic guitars. But what you may not know is that St. Mary’s has had its own 3-D printer for years.

The Computer-aided Manufacturing (CAM) and Robotics Laboratory is equipped with a Dimension Elite 3-D Printer that produces, or “prints,” three-dimensional items of virtually any shape and size.

A quick scan of an object using a FARO Edge laser scanner renders a digital likeness, which is exported to the printer. At that point, tiny droplets of a highly durable melted polymer compound accumulate layer by layer according to the size and dimensions specified by the computer image. This process continues until a solid, fully formed copy is produced.

This technology has had a significant impact on student and faculty research. Whereas specially designed parts or tools previously could take weeks to order, students and faculty can simply make what they need in a few hours.

As the 3-D printing revolution continues to rapidly evolve, so will its applications. Albert Y.T. Sun, Ph.D., Professor of Industrial Engineering (pictured above), hopes 3-D printing will one day become a readily accessible technology for the entire University.

“We always strive to bring the best body of knowledge to our students to prepare them for their careers,” Sun said. “Three-dimensional printing is a very prominent movement. No one knows for sure where it will lead us, but it surely will be an effective vehicle for cultural and creative development.”

Watch a video demonstration of what the 3-D printer can do.

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