3D Printing

3D Printed Catapult ENGR1000 Project

In the OPIM Innovate lab, I was able to create a catapult for a project in my ENGR1000 class. OPIM Innovate has all of the resources necessary to prototype, print, and assemble a project such as this. The necessary Solidworks skills I used for this project can be learned through the Tech Tracks that the lab offers. The 3D printers available in the lab are also great to test out your prototype in the real world. While my first design for the project worked out on paper, I was able to make improvements to it by seeing the real physical thing after printing it out on the Prusa MK3. OPIM Innovate is a great space with a lot of tools along with very helpful and informative staff to help increase your knowledge.

Submitted by: Anthony Prior


Disarmament: A 3D Printed Sculpture

Art as we know it is changing everyday. With 3D printing, sculptures can now be designed and created to result in a prototype or final work. Prototypes are useful as they allow a sculpture to be seen in different contexts without fully committing to one design. 

This art piece, titled “Disarmament”, was designed by Alejandro De La Guerra who is an Artist from Nicaragua. Alejandro is an Artist Protection Fund Fellow in residence at the University of Connecticut, avoiding a dangerous dictatorship going on in his home country. The piece calls for the removal of guns and calls for peace as it showcases a pile of guns collectively placed in a car trunk. Alejandro had the following to say about the work:

“According to The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the gun manufacturing industry broke records last year with 21 million in gun sales in the United States. The state of Connecticut has historically been a center of gun and ammunition production, so much so that it came to be called the ‘arsenal of democracy.’

Every year, about 40,000 people die in the United States due to the use of firearms in mass shootings, domestic violence, suicides, and accidents, not including the excessive use of lethal weapons in police violence against civilians. As part of President Biden’s policy, it is intended to end the epidemic of gun violence: https://joebiden.com/gunsafety/

To achieve this goal, not only the federal government has to put an effort towards the disarmament, but also institutions, local communities and NGOs. Most importantly, however, personal willingness of individuals to make a paradigm shift in a society where the culture of weapons is so entrenched is needed. In that regard, it is important to raise awareness among people to dispose of weapons with various creative strategies.

In my home country, Nicaragua, 400 deaths and thousands of peaceful anti-government protestors have already been hurt during the current violence caused by unofficial armed ‘paramilitary’ groups in favor of President Ortega. This situation has been a thermometer to measure the danger of access to weapons in the hands of civilians, which provides us with a critical panorama for finding parallels with other countries. 

Historically, there have been disarmament and pacification processes in post-conflict countries such as Africa, Europe, Latin America, and Central America with the support of the OAS , the United Nations, and the will of the countries in crisis. If we go back in the compass of time: the civil war in Nicaragua between the Contras and the Sandinistas (1979-1990) cost the lives of more than 50,000 Nicaraguan citizens. The pacification and disarmament process involved several years of negotiation, the main agreement being that the Contras would lay down their arms in exchange for democratic elections in 1990. In the elections of that year, the Sandinistas lost, and in a public and televised ceremony on June 27, 1990, the newly elected president Violeta Barrios De Chamorro received from the Contras the weapons used in the war, with the objective of destroying them in order to erect a monument to Peace.

The scene with all the weapons collected and thrown into a gigantic bonfire was engraved in the collective memory of Nicaraguans. That act symbolized the ‘end of the war’.”

When Alejandro came to Innovate, he already had a 3D model of the print so it was up to us to figure out how to print it. The file itself was gigantic–nearly 1 GB which is much larger than what we usually process. When we tried loading it onto our computers, it would take minutes to fully load and would even crash the 3D printing software. Eventually, we were able to load it, but then came the next big issue. The print time for each model was around 180 hours, or approximately 7 days! We were printing them at full size (20x17x14 cm) so not only was it our longest print time ever, but it’s our largest print too. The duration of the print raises issues because the 3D printing extruder can jam at any time we are not present, halting the process or even resulting in us having to restart the print. This happened about twice halfway through one of the prints, resulting in a week delay. In the end, we managed to print one version and then a miniature version. By shrinking the print, the duration was reduced, however the model became harder to clean up and refine. 

Overall, this project highlighted the utility of innovative tech in the field of fine arts. The usage of 3d printing helped outline how a sculpture may appear in different spaces without first having to fully create it. Both of the final models will help serve as a reference for Alejandro as he works with UConn’s Human Rights Institute to create a much larger monument. Additionally, all the scrap filament is being reused by him to create even more art. Thanks to the Artist Protection Fund (APF), El Instituto, Human Rights Institute, and the School of Fine Arts of UConn. You can keep up with Alejandro’s works on his website here. Be sure to be on the lookout for that as well as more projects from us in the future!

By Robert McClardy 

K-Cup Holder for the UConn Writing Center

One of the most amazing things about 3D printing is the speed at which an idea becomes a design. With the growing prevalence of this technology, the time between thinking up an object that you would like to exist and seeing it constructed continues to decrease. The thought of turning something I dreamed up into a reality was my primary inspiration for this project: a sculpture of the UConn Writing Center logo that doubles up as a K-Cup holder.

I was excited to find out that a Writing Center tutor was kind enough to donate a Keurig to the office, putting lifegiving caffeine in the hands of tutors without the cost of running down to Bookworms Cafe. Alas, it was disturbing to see that the K-Cups used by the machine were being stored in a small basket. Now, I’m not the Queen of England or anything, but I have my limits. The toll on my mental health taken by watching the cups lazily thrown into a pile in the woven container was enough to force me to take action. With less than half an hour of active work, I was able to turn the Writing Center logo, a stylized “W”, into a three-dimensional model complete with holes designed to hold K-Cups.

But there’s another reason I decided to turn my strange idea into a reality: I wanted to highlight the range of resources offered on campus to UConn students. The OPIM Innovate space and the Writing
Center aren’t so different, really. While the Writing Center can assist students with their writing in a variety of disciplines, Innovate provides a range of tech kits that teach students about emerging
technologies. Both are spaces outside the classroom where students can learn relevant skills, regardless of their majors. Most importantly, perhaps, both were kind enough to hire me.

The print currently resides in the Writing Center office where tutors can sit down, enjoy a cup of freshly brewed coffee from a large sculpture of a W and savor the bold taste of interdisciplinary collaboration.

Written by: Eli Udler


A Wrench for Stanley Black & Decker

One of the most used features of the OPIM Innovate lab is the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printer. We are always interested in new innovations in 3D printing and what students like to use the 3D printers for. We were lucky to have a chance to show a big name company upcoming technologies we had in the space.

Stanley Black & Decker’s executive personnel came to UConn for a networking event with the OPIM department. I had been tasked with 3D printing a momento to give to the Stanley team. As a manufacturer of tools and hardware, I thought it would be appropriate to print some kind of tool for them to take back with them. Doing some research I had discovered a functional wrench model that we could print as one piece.

Once I printed them I found that they were not always functional. I modified the wrench features and diameters to get what you see below using Tinkercad and Makerbot Desktop. Over the course of several weeks I experimented with several wrench sizes and materials. Our main criteria to improve the design was to reduce print time and while ensuring they were still functional. I found that wrenches that were made of ABS and approximately the size of the blue wrench seen below was the best design.When I decided to reprint, I decided to brand them in order to make them more personal.

In the end the Stanley team was intrigued by what we were doing with the space and the 3D printing technologies I had shown. It was a good professional experience to speak with them and present what I had learned during my academic career.

By: Nathan Hom

Designing the School of Business

I have been using CAD to make different models and designs since I was in high school.  It’s so satisfying to make different parts in a program that you can then bring to life with 3D Printing. In the OPIM Innovation Space, several 3D printers have some really special capabilities and I wanted to put my skills as a designer, and the abilities of the printer, to the test.

The Makerbot Z18 is easily one of the largest consumer grade printers available.  It can print within a 18 by 12 by 12 inch build volume. That’s one and a half square feet!  I challenged myself to build a model of UConn’s School of Business and then 3D print it to the largest size possible.

I started on Google maps and traced out the School of Business onto a template. Then I walked outside the school and took pictures of its notable features.  It took several days for me to capture the details of the building, such as cutting out windows and creating the overhanging roof, in order to make the building an accurate model.  I even hollowed out the model so that it could accomodate a microcontroller or LEDs if we wanted to use some IoT technology to upgrade the project.

Printing the behemoth of a project was a challenge.  The entire design printed on its side so that it could use nearly all of the Z18’s build volume, and even at full efficiency it was estimated to take 114 hours to print. I contemplated cutting it into two pieces and printing them separately, but it would be so much cooler to use the full size of the printer. It took several tries before I was able to print the School of Business in one shot. After several broken filament rolls and failed prints, the entire school was finished.

This project gave me great insight into the manufacturing problems faced by using 3D printing technology to produce exceedingly large parts. This model used about 3 pounds of filament and really pushed the limits of the technology.  A miniature School of Business was not only a great showcase for the OPIM Department and for OPIM Innovate, but it was a testament to the future of technology. Maybe in the future buildings will actually be 3D printed. It will be super exciting to see how this technology, and the CAD softwares that compliment it, evolve moving forward.

By: Evan Gentile, Senior, MEM Major