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.
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.
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.