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Deis3D readies for Printathon, expansion

By Jacob Edelman

Section: Features

September 25, 2015

Claire Sun ’18, the public relations director for Deis3D, says that while many students on campus may have heard chatter regarding a 3D printathon and printing lab on campus, many have also never been in it or witnessed the fruits of its production. Founded early in the 2014-15 academic year, the MakerLab, located on the Farber Mezzanine, contains more than 20 3D printers, SLA printers that can solidify resin layers with UV rays, 3D scanners, and even an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

3D printers work by feeding plastic through a tube with a hot extruder end and “printed” on a build bed, layer by layer, until a solid object is formed. The process normally takes a number of hours depending on the size and complexity of the object being printed. The printer receives its instructions from a computer on which someone can create, edit, or download 3D object files.

3D printers and accessories come in many varieties, including printers that use different types of materials such as plastic and rubber, scanning devices that can copy existing objects into printable files, printers the size of pens that can “draw” 3D items, and printers that can create things that range in size from very small to, theoretically, huge. The possibilities, too, of what one can print with a 3D printer are almost endless—there exist printers that print with metal, frosting, chocolate and ice.

The 3D printing club has about 50 active members and currently is also working on quadcopter projects. Quadcopters are commonly known as drones and have recently fallen under Federal Aviation Administration scrutiny. “We are working with 3D-printed frames to test aerodynamic capabilities as a fun introduction to this technology. However, drones are under federal regulations, so there are limits to where we can fly. At Brandeis, drones can be flown indoors and off campus. They are not allowed to be flown in Brandeis airspace,” Sun said.

Sun explained that the most important event for the club is the aforementioned Printathon, which is a “3D printing and design competition,” the next of which will be Oct. 3 and 4. Over a period of 24 hours, teams will design and print objects surrounding a revealed theme. Last year’s Printathon-winning school was the University of Connecticut, who designed a prosthetic biker leg.

She attributes the best part of the Printathon to the people involved, saying, “What makes the Printathon such an interesting event are the people you meet. We get people from across the East Coast with a variety of backgrounds and experiences,” continuing, “It’s an event about developing ideas and providing a creative space for them.”

According to Sun, there are misconceptions surrounding 3D printing, explaining how often it is believed that the process will change manufacturing on the large scale. She does, however, believe that it will have a more significant impact in the prototyping process, stating “3D printing empowers individual creation and experimentation.” She continued, “I met [someone] at Folk Fest last year who created a small business of creating intricate, scientifically accurate keychains. He would design the model electronically and print the model. If he was happy with the design, he then sent it off to be mass manufactured.”

Deis3D has plans for expansion, adding even more printers to its existing 20, and seeks to increase interest and awareness from the student body. That’s what events such as the Printathon are useful for. The club is open to all members of the Brandeis community. To get involved, join meetings on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

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