Any Campus Member Can Use Albion’s 3D Printers — Here’s What You Need to Know

Small game piece figurines designed at Albion and printed on one of Albion's four 3D printers. The printers are free for any campus community member, so long they make their first print with an information technology staff member present. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Noah.)

Albion College students, faculty and staff have the ability to use the 3D printing equipment to create gifts, tools and anything in between. The four printers are all located in the basement computer lab of Ferguson Hall. Students that are interested in 3D printing have a few options when getting trained to work the Albion printers.

To learn how to use the printers, individuals can take an informative quiz through a free program on Moodle. It is also possible to attend in-person training with instructional technologist Sarah Noah. This training typically takes about an hour to do. The best way to sign up for in-person training is to visit the Information Technology Department across the hall from the Ferguson computer lab.

The IT department requires anyone printing for the first time to work with their staff so any problems or slow-downs are taken care of.

Once an individual is trained and has printed an object with an IT staff member, they are able to rent out time using the printers for their projects. The price for printing is $0.15 per gram. On average, a piece may weighs around 50 grams, which is $7.50, said Kurt Juday, assistant instructional technologist. Users are able to make items larger and smaller.

One of two Ultimaker 3D printers Albion owns, located in the Ferguson Computer Lab on the ground floor of Ferguson Hall. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Noah.)

Juday said the average print takes between 30 minutes and one hour. More detailed and complex prints can take up to 24 hours to be completed.

Juday said some of the common things being printed are figurines, animated characters and stencils. Many of the items have preset designs or templates that can be adjusted using different software and websites including Tinkercad and Thingiverse. These allow the users to share, use and find ideas for their very own 3D prints.

There are a few different types of materials used to print. They are all types of plastics but vary on how biodegradable they are, their overall strength, and the final look of the products.

There is one plastic used, PVA, that when dipped in water will dissolve, which can be useful when using the plastic as a frame or mold for a bigger project. It easily washes off without damaging the other pieces.

Juday said many of the individuals using the printers are in college to become elementary teachers.

Emma Harris, a sophomore from Manchester, Michigan, in the education department, said, “It is a really cool tool to use and allows students to create nearly anything they can think off. I think it would be awesome to have in a classroom one day.”

Juday said education majors come in to learn how practical and easy the printing programs are to work and that elementary students will be able to use them as well.

“These 3D Printers are from the same people who make CAD [computer-aided design] programs but much more streamlined and simple to use for everyone.” Kurt Juday said.

Juday believes that using 3D printers is simple, quick and affordable. From lightsabers to clothing hangers the printers can handle any mission.

The Ferguson computer lab is open all day, everyday but keycard access is needed for weekends or after 5 p.m. on weekdays.

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