Students use 3D printers to create prototypes

In her first year as an instructor at KC, Karen Dilday said she has discovered a number of students who are interested in three-dimensional printing.

KC has two 3D printers on campus, and these printers do not come cheap. Each printer costs $20,900.

The college was able to purchase these printers through grants and technology funds.  Dilday said they ordered the printers, which are Stratayas, from Teaching System Incorporated, which sells high-end technical equipment.

Knowing what a 3D printer is only half the fun. Learning the actual process in how the printer creates these 3D models is the real interest, for many.

“The main function of the printers is to print prototypes to determine the best way to make and assemble the necessary parts,” said Dilday. “These prototypes are created from plastic.”

There are multiple steps that must be taken for the final 3D prototypes to be created. Dilday said as long as the computer recognizes the object as 3D and it is a Standard Tessellation Language file (STL), the printer can create it.

Dilday described the process of how a 3D printer operates. Plastic filament travels through a tube to the print head, where it is heated to a semi-liquid state and extruded with precision. Modeling bases provide a smooth surface on which the models are extruded a layer at a time.

There are two plastics, the model material which is ABSplus thermoplastic and the soluble support material. Once printing is done, students then simply take the base out of the 3D printer and snap off the model.

Drop the model in a water-based solution to remove all the support material and it is finished.  As complicated as this process may seem, Dilday said it does not require a special license to operate.

An interesting feature these printers have is they are environment friendly due to only heat being used to melt the plastic. The solutions are also eco friendly they as create no safety concerns.

John Collard, Longview freshman, said he liked 3D printing. He chose to major in drafting because he took a class in high school and enjoyed it, and wanted to pursue a career in drafting.

“You can experiment [with] creating different objects before you create them,” Collard said.

Collard said he likes being able to make something out of nothing. Some of his 3D models include a chess set, a mechanical tiger, and even an iPhone case. His only dislike is how time consuming drafting can be.

Rena Warlick, White Oak sophomore, is another one of Dilday’s students. She said she chose to major in this field because as a child she liked to draw blueprints of houses, and now doing it on a computer is easier and fun.

“I like the creativity involved in designing anything,” said Warlick. Her dislikes include 3D modeling AutoCAD, which is a 2D and 3D software application for modeling.

Students who have an interest in 3D printing of drafting can contact Dilday at 903-983-8169 or email her at kdilday@kilgore.edu.