3D printing has been around for the last 40 years, first produced by Charles Hull in 1983.
The initial design involved an acrylic-based material called a photo polymer becoming exposed to an ultraviolet laser beam and thus producing a solid piece of plastic.
According to 3dprintingindustry.com, this original 3D printer would have cost around $300,000.
Luckily, technological advancements have allowed 3D printers to become more accessible and less expensive.
Elizabeth Roe, freshman criminal justice major, said she prefers carbon-based 3D printers.
“3D printer quality is based on plastics, but carbon printers are a lot more sturdy,” Roe said.
Ben Sanders, professor of computer, software and data sciences, said 3D printers are useful for helping students express their creativity.
“While printing, the 3D object is built up line by line,” Sanders said. “It’s not etched. This can be slow. However, it is a challenging and rewarding process. Students especially are able to take their creativity and turn it into something tangible. It’s an excellent learning tool.”
Joshua Sears, sophomore electrical engineering major, said 3D printers are quickly becoming accessible tools.
“3D printing is advancing every year,” Sears said. “Features that used to only be available on massively expensive printers are now available on cheaper models. Currently, anyone could get a decent printer and start learning how to print for around $200, but I have seen printers as cheap as $100.”
Like all technology, 3D printing has its pros and cons.
“3D printing is not accurate, and it costs a good amount of time and money,” Sanders said. “On the other hand, it is a great learning tool for students as it requires upkeep and maintenance, and it is cheaper than injection modeling, a more precise process which costs about $5,000 per mold.”
Roe said 3D printers are great for college campuses.
Sears confirmed how essential 3D printers are for engineering students.
“Engineering students at CBU use the 3D printers constantly for classes and projects,” Sears said.
Sanders said he thinks 3D printers are excellent for a school environment.
“Overall, from an educator’s viewpoint, 3D printers are worth it,” Sanders said. “Despite investment on actual product creation being low due to accuracy, the return investment on education is high.”
While 3D printing may not be the most practical for precision, it provides an excellent tool to learn with and to make students’ ideas a reality.