February 28, 2013 12:00AM
In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama said 3-D printing “has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.”
That statement caught the attention of faculty members within Pittsburg State University’s College of Technology, where 3-D printing is becoming an integral part of the students’ educational experiences.
“What we’re doing with 3-D printing is adding another level of learning for our students,” Norman Philipp, assistant professor in PSU’s School of Construction, said. “Being able to print 3-D models, giving the students something to feel and touch and pass around, helps them better incorporate the information we’re trying to pass to them.”
Also known as additive manufacturing, 3-D printing is the process by which a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape is created from a 3-D digital model. Philipp said 3-D printing can take place using a variety of materials, such as metals, wood and even concrete.
The 3-D printer at the Kansas Technology Center works by using a fine powder and bonding agent to create the items.
“The machine applies the powder layer by layer, printing up the object as it goes,” he said.
This type of printing has been a major benefit to the construction industry, as it allows builders, contractors and designers to view and assess a physical model of what is to be constructed.
“Traditionally, design is done using two-dimensional blueprints,” Philipp said. “By adding a 3-D model, it allows you that direct communication from a 3-D design to a 3-D product. We can’t always go out and build the things we’re talking about in class, but we can design it in 3-D and print a model that our students can hold and study.”
Philipp said the 3-D printer, which was installed at the KTC last summer, is creating new ways of teaching and learning.
“It really is making teaching a better experience both for classroom instructors and our students,” he said. “This is one of the advantages of being at Pitt State. We have this wonderful technology readily available. We’re at the cutting edge with this technology, and we’re preparing our students to be leaders in industry.
“We’re making leaders of tomorrow with the technology we’re putting in their hands today,” Philipp said.