The 3D craze continues to grow and the Mississippi State University Libraries is growing with it. The Libraries’ Instructional Media Center (IMC) has just expanded its 3D capabilities for the second time in a year.
After launching into the 3D world with a MakerBot Replicator 2, loaned to the library last summer from the Interior Design Program in the College of Art, Architecture, and Design, the IMC added a 3D scanner earlier this year. And now, in collaboration with the College of Business’ Center for Entrepreneurship and The Factory, a Maker Space movement on campus, the IMC has expanded again by adding four additional 3D printers to its lab. The printers and scanners are available for all MSU students, faculty and staff.
“We are excited about the interest our 3D printer and scanner have been getting from MSU students, as well as faculty,” said Pattye Archer, coordinator of the Instructional Media Center. “Now, thanks to the generous contribution of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, we are adding four 3D printers which will allow us to work with and serve even more of our students.”
Because 3D prints can often take hours to print, depending on their size and the complexity of the design, Archer said the multiple printers will allow for more student projects to be printed at the same time.
“It is exciting to walk through the lab and see three or four of the printers all going at once,” she said.
While many of those using the Libraries’ 3D printers are inquisitive students wanting to learn more about the emerging technology, 3D printing at MSU is also a key part of many academic departments, and projects appear on a number of class syllabi. Archer said 3D printing allows students to transform 3D models into real world objects.
“We have had students in the Interior Design program who create and print furniture prototypes, students in Engineering creating and printing housing boxes for Arduino boards (mini-computers), students in Engineering creating and printing Elliptical handles (as part of a walking cane project), and students in Architecture creating and printing miniature stair models,” Archer said.
Additionally, some classes in the various engineering fields are creating prototypes of engine parts or new product designs. The College of Veterinary Medicine, the Architecture Department and the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS) also have their own 3D printers that print specialized parts for current and future studies.
“These are just a sample of how 3D printing is changing the way some of our professors teach and our students learn,” she added.
Archer said the partnership between the Libraries and the Factory, which is primarily student-led, will continue to provide more opportunities for more students. Factory leaders agree that the Libraries’ IMC is a great addition to the resources they offer – especially since the library is open to all students.
“We know 3D printers give people the ability to create and design the innovations of the future quickly and cheaply,” said Michael Lane, Undergraduate Team Leader for the Factory. “With the ever increasing availability of affordable 3D printers for hobbyists and amateur inventors alike and their growing use in industry, it is a great technology for students to get exposure to.”
Archer said funding from the MSU Center for Entrepreneurship was used to purchase two UP! Mini 3D printers and two Createbot Mini 3D printers with dual extruders.
The UP! Mini printers offer a build area 120 cubic millimeters (4.7 cubic inches) with a vertical print resolution of 0.2-0.35mm, while the Createbot Mini printers offer a 150 x 150 x 220 mm (5.9″ x 5.9″ x 8.6″) build area with a vertical print resolution of 0.1-0.3mm. The Createbot Mini printers are also equipped with dual extruders which allow the printers to print models with dissolvable supports or designs with 2 different color filaments.
The 3D printing services form the cornerstone of a makerspace the library plans to expand that will provide students, faculty and staff with a space and tools to create, collaborate, design, learn, share, and more.
“Libraries have always been at the center of learning, sharing, collaborating and we believe this is a continuation of the services we have always provided and the role we have always played in our community.”
In addition to the printing services, the IMC offers workshops on 3D printing throughout each academic semester. These workshops are ideal for those who are new to 3D printing and would like to know more about what the IMC has to offer. For more information on these workshops, check the Libraries’ calendar of events or visit: http://library.msstate.edu/imc.
Mississippi State University Libraries is a premier research library providing its communities of users an ongoing, creative, technologically advanced library program that promotes new and emerging technologies while enhancing and inspiring teaching, research, and service of the highest caliber in an environment of free and open inquiry and with a commitment to excellence. For more information about MSU Libraries, please visit http://library.msstate.edu/ .
MSU, Mississippi's flagship research university, is online at www.msstate.edu.