3D Printer Update!

Exciting news update! Thanks to the generosity of the Makers Lab at UCSF, Project SCIFI has procured a 3D printer which we will donate to a school with hopes of increasing interest in science and design. We are excited to see what students will create using their very own Ultimaker 2+ 3D printer equipped in their classroom. We’d like to thank Dylan from the Makers Lab for allowing us to bring hands-on learning to underprivileged schools in the Bay Area. If you’re like me, you might not be too familiar with the uses of a 3D printer or the potential applications of them. In the rest of this blog I will do my best to provide a short, concise rundown on what a 3D printer is and why it’s important.

A 3D printer is kind of like the ones we use to print paper, except instead of only going side to side a 3D printer also moves up and down. Adding this third dimension allows the printer to build up objects one layer at a time. What makes them useful is that they’re speedy, even up to ten times faster than other methods that produce the same result. Simply download the model onto your computer and “queue” it for printing. They’re also very inexpensive, up to five times cheaper than other options of producing the same product. When compared to other manufacturing methods, 3D printers are much more sustainable. 3D printing is an additive type of manufacturing meaning it only uses the materials it requires to build a part. The opposite, subtractive manufacturing such as milling or turning, separates the desired object from a larger block of material which then becomes waste. Think of carving out a toy car from a wooden block. All those excess wood shavings are waste. Finally, 3D printers allow the operator to have extensive customization options with regards to product design and prototypes.

We’ve established that 3D printers are pretty cool. But how do they even work? Well instead of inkjet printers which use ink cartridges, 3D printers use cartridges of various substances including plastic, nylon, or various powders. Upon depositing a layer, the printer will fuse that layer to the existing structure using adhesive or ultraviolet light. The end result is a product that is, you guessed it, three dimensional. Currently, these printers are selling for several thousand dollars. However, there might be a time in the near future where it’s custom for 3D printers to be an inexpensive and common household item like the inkjet printer we’re all familiar with.  

The 3D printer has some very interesting applications in various fields that many scientists are currently researching. In healthcare and disaster management, it may allow for the adequate supply of resources that refugee camps often lack. If researchers can find a way to effectively print artificial hearts, there might come a day when donors, transplants, and organ waiting lists are no longer necessary. In fact, the 3D printer is so applicable to healthcare that many claim it will pave the way for a better and brighter future in medicine. Fashion and design is an industry that has already adopted the use of these printers. Imagine how much easier it is for a designer to not have to go through the extensive production processes and time required to make a single dress. Like I said earlier, efficiency and customization are two huge reasons these printers are making an impact. Finally, the use of these printers can extend to inventors, the automotive industry, architecture, the food industry–yes, the food “cartridge” is currently being developed–and finally personal, at home use by all of us.

I hope I convinced you that 3D printers are pretty neat and have an ever-expanding potential for application in a number of different industries. Us here at Project SCIFI can’t wait to see what the students at the school who gets the printer will create. Keep an eye out for other exciting news about what we’ve been up to and how the 12-for-12 Initiative is progressing. I will say that we have a lot of coats getting ready to ship to a lot of classrooms. If you aren’t already, be sure to give us a follow on Facebook and Instagram so you can stay up to date with our exciting news!

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