Imaging Center enters the third dimension

3D printer

Imaging Center employees Jeff Schulte and James Williams test out the 3D printer by producing novelty items like the ones on the table in front of the printer.

An article on the InPlant Graphics website features  the uses for 3D printing at several university printing facilities including the SDSU Imaging Center. The paragraphs that follow are excerpts from that article.  A link to the website is found at the bottom of this story.

3D printing is a hot topic these days. While printers ponder whether or not it makes sense to offer it, some in-plants have already made the investment and are reaping the rewards.

“I would recommend it,” says Robert Carlson , manager of the print laboratory at South Dakota State University. After adding four MakerBot Replicator 2 printers, the Brookings, S.D., in-plant is not only generating revenue from 3D printing but is enjoying increased visibility because of the new service, which has led to an uptick in print work.

Though the SDSU engineering and architecture departments had 3D printing capabilities previously, the in-plant got into 3D printing after the university president spoke with department heads about creating a center where architecture and design students could do 3D printing for their courses.

“They called me up and I said, ‘Oh yeah, we’d love to get involved in that,’ ” Carlson recalls.

As a result, SDSU’s print lab was expanded and other new services were added, such as laser engraving, printing on fabrics and vinyl cutting with a Graphtec cutting plotter. The shop just added a 3D scanner as well. The Print Lab, staffed by 14 employees, is adjacent to SDSU’s Imaging Center, which handles the university’s offset, digital and wide-format printing needs and is run by one full-time employee, a contract worker and 11 student employees.

Carlson says students are the main users of the 3D printer to produce samples of projects they have designed. Other notable 3D jobs:

  • The psychology department faculty asked the in-plant to produce a tray to be used for studying water worms, and they were so pleased with the result, they ordered 10 more.
  • SDSU Parking Services asked the in-plant to replicate an internal plastic piece that had broken on one of its handheld ticketing devices. A student worker measured the broken part, designed a new one and used the 3D printer to create it. It fit perfectly.

Figuring out what to charge for 3D printing has not been easy.  Carlson charges by the hour. The first hour is $25 (with half and quarter hours charged proportionately); the second hour is $15; and the third hour is just $5. Complex jobs can take three hours, he says, and he wanted to keep the cost manageable for students so they aren’t scared away from using the 3D printer.

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