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Using 3D Printing To Connect Institutions with Industry

Creating technology partnerships that benefit students, faculty and local businesses
University Business, August 2015

At Niagara College in Ontario, Canada, a new state-of-the-art Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre is providing unique opportunities for students, faculty and local businesses to collaborate in innovative ways. 3D printing plays an important role in a variety of projects at the Centre, providing students with valuable real-world experience, faculty with professional development and research opportunities, and local advanced manufacturing businesses with solutions to a variety of challenges. In this web seminar, originally broadcast on June 11, 2015, a leader from Niagara discussed how the Centre is using 3D printing to enable students and faculty to create and design prototypes that improve manufacturing processes for local businesses, and how 3D printing can be used at any institution to benefit students, faculty and local industry.

Jesse Roitenberg: Stratasys is the worldwide leader in additive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing has also been called everything from 3D printing to rapid prototyping. The term “additive manufacturing” is sticking right now. I like it because it’s actually describing how the technology works and who it can impact.

We empower designers and creators with tools to fail faster. Failing fast is a good thing. I love that education is starting to do more project-based learning, and failing fast is a key to success in that environment. These students get the opportunity to embed themselves in engineering and make actual engineering decisions.

Another thing we’re doing at Stratasys is building a digital ecosystem. We realize that we provide a piece of hardware, but it is a piece of hardware that can enhance the classroom. People without engineering or manufacturing backgrounds need help—they need some assistance to get to where they want to be.

We want to inspire, to drive more young people to pursue STEM careers. We want to lead by providing platforms where industry and education can communicate to assist with making lives better. And then we also want to grow. Our goal as a company is to build a global ecosystem to serve students and faculties so they have the skills to go on to whatever next level they choose to pursue.

With additive manufacturing, students get access to real-world experiences. They get to do things. They get to create things. Then they get to hold, touch and feel what they create.

We’re also developing modules for middle school and high school. These modules are pieces that will fit in all types of programs. We’re not pigeonholing and saying this is a curriculum—rather, we think this can be added to your curriculum. We’re producing short, medium and long projects, with different types of experience levels. If you inherit a 3D printer and you are a science teacher, now you have a recipe book to assist with making sure this piece of equipment is relevant in your classroom.

We also have developed a free curriculum for colleges and universities, available on the Education page at www.stratasys.com. It’s a full semester course, which some people are running, and other people are taking bits and pieces to intertwine into everything else they are doing in their classroom.

Finally, we at Stratasys recognized a flaw in the way we worked: We were charging too much for materials. So just recently in March we made a decision to drop the price 50 percent on our modeling material (which is the most widely used material for building), our breakaway materials, and our PolyJet materials. We just want more students to get access to 3D printing.

Costa Aza: About three years ago we created an innovation center at Niagara College to help our local businesses take advantage of equipment and resources that, potentially, as a small- or medium-size enterprise, they couldn’t otherwise have access to.

The biggest thing for us is we integrate our business solutions and digital media solutions with advanced manufacturing. When companies come to us, we allow them to have access to not only the technologies, but we also help them with their product development. Then we make sure they can take advantage of it. So we are trying to create a turnkey solution for businesses to take advantage of our knowledge, our equipment, and then also hopefully to make money off of it.

Specifically at The Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre, we look at three aspects that we specialize in at our college, and we try to integrate all three. We look at engineering design, which is using 3D design CAD packages to come up with better designs of products. In manufacturing we get into scanning services where we do reverse engineering or quality control. And we look at tool and dies, and make sure that when we do have a 3D print, that the parts come out properly.

We have three Stratasys products right now: the uPrint Plus, Fortus 400 and an Objet 260 Connex, and we have all of the equipment integrated into our academic program. So we have co-op students who work with us in our Research Innovation Center, and we also bring about 60 students every term into the lab to take advantage of the equipment, learn how to apply it, and learn how to design differently for additive manufacturing.

A very recent case study we did was with a local company that builds greenhouses. They do a lot of events, and do a lot of overseas sales. What they’d been doing is just taking typical brochures and slideshows of digital pictures. But they wanted to have something more interactive to attract people to their booth, stay at their booth, and ultimately increase their sales.

So we scanned 2D drawings of an entire facility that they built for a local greenhouse. Once we had that scan, we converted it to CAD, and then we scaled it down. Now we are in the process of building this greenhouse at a five-by-three-foot scaled-down version. Some of the roofs will open and close just as they do in the real world. Other roofs will come right off so people can see what is inside the greenhouse. The company will be taking this around the world to promote their business.

Another example of a company we helped is one that paints lines on roads and highways. They had a part that hooked up to their machine that was made with a traditional manufacturing process. They had a steel fabricated flange to connect to their machine, and then also a part that they had to split into three or four different pieces just to get the drill bit in, because you can’t have a curved drill bit. It was very chunky and heavy. They came to us and said, “Can you redesign the part to not have as many bolts holding it together? Can you get rid of the flange and other parts?”

The capabilities of additive manufacturing are unique. It’s another manufacturing process, but it allows you to change the way you think when you design. The students thrive on that. They like not having the restrictions on how to manufacture something. So when they got their hands on this project, they basically cut the part down from four parts with about a dozen bolts to two parts with four bolts. It significantly reduced the weight of the part. Now this company orders a few parts from us every month, and they are continuously increasing their sales because they have a unique product to go to market with.

Tying it into the academic side: It’s not just about having access to the equipment, it’s pushing what you can do with the equipment. We’ve had great success in the last three or four years. Hopefully at the end of this year we will be expanding with the Fortus 900 and the material we have on it, and then also getting a Connex3 Objet 500 and expanding our capabilities in the medical industry, going beyond just your typical manufacturing applications.

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