John “Jack” Leppert ’19 LABB 2016-Throughout the duration of the LABB program, students have been exposed to aspects of the college that we may not be taking advantage of. During week six, all 21 interns visited Dr. Porter, professor of chemistry, in the 3D printing lab. You might be thinking, what does chemistry have to do with 3D printing? The answer: absolutely everything. Not only was Dr. Porter able to explain the applications of 3D printing, he was also an expert in the science behind it.
Dr. Porter encouraged us to think of 3D printers as very precise hot glue guns. These extremely advanced “hot glue guns” could print plastic, metals, and even glass. Using 3D imaging, the printer builds the figure one layer at a time, allowing it to be printed with an extreme amount of precision. However, where the user gains precision, he or she sacrifices time. One of the few drawbacks of 3D printing is the long period of time it requires to complete each project. Dr. Porter explained that one small plastic figure could take an entire day to complete.
Applications of 3D printing are growing rapidly. In our very own 3D printing lab, Wabash students have printed Wabash memorabilia, key chains, toys, and even a prosthetic hand. The college prints the prosthetic hands for $25 dollars and donates them. This saves patients thousands of dollars that they would have otherwise had to spend on their own. At only $3,400, most of the students found the cost of each individual printer surprisingly cheap. After all, it does feel rather futuristic.
Finally, Dr. Porter encouraged us to think of the possible applications of 3D printing in our personal lives. 3D printing is an evolving technology and so are its applications. One day we may be able to buy a 3D file of a device and have it printed in our own home instead of buying the device itself. This could revolutionize the way that consumers buy their favorite things. As future innovators, learning about this technology was certainly interesting and could possibly benefit us in our future business endeavors.