In late 2016, the Mount’s Art and Design Department received a donation from local marketing, design firm Sanger & Eby, which was co-founded by Mount alumni Donna Eby and Lisa Sanger, to purchase 3D printers for the University. Working with Kurt Grannan, the head of the graphic design program, the partners researched printers to find those that would be the best and easiest for students and faculty to utilize. As a result, the art building now houses three Makerbot printers that are available for any student to use.
These printers, located in room 202 of the art building, are mostly piloted by the graphic design students, but are open to any Mount student who wishes to use them. As it stands right now, the printers are free to use and do not charge a printing fee. The material used for creating 3D objects are funded by a grant set up by Sanger & Eby which provides more than enough material for the year.
And for anyone looking to use the printers, the process is simple. Each printer has been connected to an iMac computer housed next to it. Each computer contains a Makerbot program that allows the user to import, resize, preview, and customize any 3D model that is ready for print. 3D models can be found on various websites, so it is not necessary to build one from scratch. Besides, the program is not so much for creating or designing the model itself, but instead it serves as a preflight stage to preview what the print is going to look like before executing it.
Even without having anything to print, watching the printing process of someone else’s project can be just as exciting. At the beginning of a new print, the printer’s nozzle begins to preheat, reaching up to 215 degrees Celsius. It needs to be hot enough to melt the plastic material it uses to assemble the print.
Once heated, the printer raises the build plate (a flat plate the object will be printed on) up to the nozzle at the top of the machine. Then, from bottom to top, the object is built layer by layer. On the Makerbot 2, the model available at the Mount, these layers can be as thin as a tenth of a millimeter. As the printer continuously dispenses the plastic, the material almost instantly dries again after it is printed. But as quickly as the nozzle moves back and forth to create the object, most prints, even ones that only stand a couple inches tall, can take hours to complete, so patience is required.
Having printed multiple projects on the printers, I can attest to how easy and interesting the process of using the 3D printers can be. And these aren’t just for art students, so anyone with an interest in printing 3D objects is welcome to visit the art building and test them out. For those unsure of how to operate the programs and printers, you can contact Kurt Grannan at email@example.com or me at firstname.lastname@example.org.