3D printers utilized campus wide by students faculty for projects

students working on 3d printers
When a classroom needed a doorstopper, engineering professor Cassandra Gribbins had an idea: Just print one. By using the 3D printer in the College of Engineering’s lab, she was able to design and print a plastic doorstopper in less than an hour.

This semester, the College of Engineering opened ERAU Makerspace, a 3D printing lab for faculty and students to create their own projects with advanced printers that produce three-dimensional objects from a digital file.

“These printers allow us to print a variety of things,” Gribbins said. “You don’t know what you can print until you discover there is something you need.”

The use of 3D printers is growing on the Daytona Beach Campus, and students are using the technology to create everything from scaled aircraft models to iPhone cases and even virtual reality goggles. Students in the Honor's Program are also working on a research project to develop a prototype for a fully autonomous 3D printing vending machine that would be available 24 hours a day for students.

As 3D printers have become more affordable, they’ve also become more accessible to students and are being used campus-wide to help students build projects in various disciplines. By creating a design of an object in software such as CATIA, students can create virtual models that are then printed with filament that slowly produces the object in layers. Larger objects can be assembled in parts.

“Once these more affordable printers started coming out, there’s been a boom in how they are being used,” Gribbins said. “And it’s far more affordable for educators to use them and help students design things.”

Honor’s Program students have identified an opportunity to make the devices more accessible to students through a research project called Project Daedalus. The students spent the fall designing plans to create a vending machine prototype. The idea is for students to be able to send digital files to the printer from anywhere on campus and pick up their object when it’s finished printing. Currently, students must go to the labs with their files and work under the supervision of a lab technician.

“We feel that is a worthy challenge and use of our time,” said Honor’s student Gus Galarnka, who is working on the project. “It’s awesome to explore 3D printing and create an environment that encourages entrepreneurship on campus.”