Have you ever thought up a design for something new and innovative invention or creation and wanted to hold it in your hand? Or have you ever just wanted to be able to make something cheap and easily? Well now in the Wilbur Powerhouse, you'll be able to do just that.
Lehigh has had 3D printers on its campus for over ten years now, but starting in January 2014, one 3D printer has become free for students and faculty to use. By September 2014, there will be 3-4 free 3D printing kiosks in Wilbur Powerhouse.
Over the past few years, 3D printing has become increasingly more accessible and affordable, and with recent innovations Lehigh is able to supply access to the MakerBot 3D printer.
Brian Slocum, Director of Wilbur Powerhouse, had the great idea to put one of these printers out for student use earlier this semester. They started out by teaching several students how to use it, and let the program expand from there.
"We want students to feel empowered to make things and use them" says Slocum, "and that's what we're starting to see happen."
Printing can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours depending on the size and shape of the object.
Starting next semester, the Wilbur staff will be making youtube videos and tutorials on how to use the MakerBot software and how to use the 3D Printer. To start printing, all you need to is to download MakerBot's software Makerware, and start designing. To print, just convert into an STL file, upload the file onto a SD card and plug it in.
"So far, about 80% of the printing at the kiosk has been research, prototypes or coursework, which was surprising. Only about 20% of the printing is people playing around and using files from sites like Thingiverse, which is great because that's what the printer is here for: for kids to learn how to use the printer and experiment with 3D printing" said Slocum.
Students from all colleges have been taking advantage of the free 3D printing kiosk, from entrepreneurs to engineers to product designers to architecture students. The printers have been especially great for programs like Lehigh's Integrated Product Design, allowing students to prototype products easily and cheaply.
Wilbur Powerhouse is open from 7:30am-7:30pm every day and the 3D printers are on a first-come, first-serve basis.