Located in the Giovale Library—next to the math, physics and computer science lab—sits an advanced piece of machinery that gives students a chance to learn new technology and create 3-D images.
“I don’t know anything about 3-D printing, but I’m excited to have the opportunity to learn more about it,” said Bernadette Sundback, a senior math major who attended a workshop to learn how to use the printer.
3-D printing is a process for making a physical object from a three-dimensional computer model. The objects are created layer by layer, and the printer uses computer-aided design files as digital blueprints to create different objects.
Valerie Burnett, a systems librarian at Giovale Library, was instrumental in bringing the 3-D printer to Westminster College. She said she agreed to teach faculty, staff and students at Westminster about the printer when the technology arrived.
“We felt like this was an important resource that our students should be familiar with,” Burnett said. “A lot of colleges have them, and we wanted our students to be able to leave the college with the experience. It is really cross-curricular. You can make art with it and it can be used in theater and costuming, but you can also use it in math.”
3-D printing has been around since the 1980s, when it was used for the mass production of prototyping commercial items—anything from tools to toys. Since then, 3-D printing has evolved into a next-generation production tool. It’s made its way from the tech world and is becoming more accessible to students across the country.
“It is critical to be up to date with tools and production methods,” said Erin Coleman, assistant professor in the communication department. “Every design firm that I have spoken with talks about how important it is that the designers understand how to transfer the idea on screen to a production method.”
Coleman said she reached out to Burnett in hopes that her multimedia tools and production class could incorporate the 3-D printer into its curriculum.
“These skills save time and money for the client and company, as well as increase the designer’s ability to communicate with production teams,” Coleman said.
Burnett said Westminster plans to offer additional sessions on how to use the printer. Anyone who is interested can sign up to receive training on Canvas or in person and will be able to book time with the printer after they’re trained. It costs 10 cents per gram of PLA to use the printer, and all costs go to upkeep and repairs, Burnett said.
Burnett will offer a training session on Sept. 16 at 9:30 a.m. in the library’s iLab. Participants should bring their own laptops. For more information, contact Burnett at email@example.com.