John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences

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UND sits on the cutting-edge of 3D printing technology – Computer Science Department Highlighted (7/29/14)

3D printing truly is a thing of the future, where the possibilities are endless.

The University of North Dakota is turning these possibilities into realities, especially now that 3D printers are becoming affordable enough for the average Joe. When the 3D printers first came out in the 1980s, their cost measured in the millions of dollars.

Today, an average desktop sized 3D printer may cost around $2,500, according to Jeremy Straub, a Ph.D. student in computer science at UND.

The UND Department of Computer Science has gone so far as to build its own 3D scanner to accompany its 3D printer. The scanner was built as a part of a project by the department’s “Experiential Learning” class, and it takes multiple pictures of the subject and converts them into a 3D model, which the printer creates.

“It’s a tool that unlocks so many different areas,” Straub said.

Other 3D scanners around the world are used to do things such as scan people’s bodies and custom tailor lingerie and suits, allowing the customers to not stand around for long periods of time for measurements.

“A number of companies make 3D scanners commercially and sell them for around a quarter of a million dollars with similar capabilities to ours,” Straub said. “We were able to make for just over $4,000.”

The scanner can also be used to scan components of machines, in which case, the printer can make a replica. One could also create their own invention on the computer and have the 3D printer print it.

The UND Department of Computer Science also recently offered an “additive manufacturing” (3D Printing) seminar for educators and businesspeople. The seminar was held on July 15-16 in Streibel Hall on the UND campus and was presented by Straub and Scott Kerlin, a UND computer sciences instructor.

“The seminar showed people in the local community how additive manufacturing can be used in their local businesses and other potential aspects that people can use it for,” Straub said.

The seminar also attracted representatives of entities across the UND campus, including the Physics Department and the North Dakota Museum of Art, which worked together on various projects. They proposed to create a lattice of daffodils in the form of a physics diagram as their creative final project. Earlier, they had made part of a T-Rex head, a kazoo and scanned in one of their own heads and printed a miniature replica of it.

They also created a lesson plan and executed it using the 3D printer.

The UND seminar also allowed local educators to receive professional development credit. These educators focused on how the new 3D technology can enable student learning across many subject areas, including art, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Jobs in the future are likely to build, repair or work with robots so people need to be knowledgeable with robotics and the printer is accentually a robot,” said Straub. “The printer has created a lot of interest from students and gives them another way to connect with the real world.”

By using the 3D printer the computer science department has not only gave its students another way to connect technology to the real world, but through this seminar, has now given the real world another way to connect with technology as well.

Amy Halvorson
University & Public Affairs student writer