The Riddell Library and Learning Centre at MRU is home to a Maker Studio. The Maker Studio serves to encourage both students and the general public alike, to put their creativity to good use by trying out the new technologies available at the one-year-old facility. They have a variety of equipment and software available such as cutting, sewing and hand tools, as well as electronics and robotics. Most notably, they currently have three different 3D printing tools:
- Form 2 Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printers
- MakerBot Replicator Z18 FDM 3D printers
- Prusa FDM 3D printer
Erin Wainwright, Maker Studio Technician at Riddell, says 3D printing is a unique process from beginning to end. “To 3D print something, you need to have a 3D model first. There’s three ways that you can get that. The first is you can design your own model using 3D modelling software. The second is you can 3D scan something, and the third way is you can download a model that someone else has already done and decided to share”. Wainwright explains that once you have chosen a model, it will be in STL format. You then have to take that file and put it into the software that goes with the 3D printer you prefer to use.
It can take anywhere from 58 minutes to 14 hours for a 3D printer to finalize a product, depending on the printer you choose. The shorter the time, the lesser the resolution.
3D printing has been in the news recently for its potential advancements in space, medicine, and even the automobile industry. Erin highlights how at MRU specifically, the printers have helped students present their ideas for projects as 3D models. A Child Studies student was recently asked to develop an object that could help enhance a child’s development, “the girl said all the kids really loved bugs, so she’s making little tiny bugs to put in sandboxes and then they have to find them”. The student chose to 3D print sandbox toys, which will be tested on children to see in what ways they interact with the toys and if they help enhance their education in a positive manner.
Even faculty members reap the benefits of the studio’s 3D printers. Erin points out that Faculty of Science and Technology Professor, Lars Peterson, recently downloaded DNA parts and modified them so that they connect and reconnect like DNA does. He printed them, “so when students come in to his Biology class, he’ll hand out each single piece of this DNA and then they all have to figure out how it goes together”. This improves the learning experience for students by making something that has been taught through images for years, a lot more tangible.
The Maker Studio is the only place in Calgary that offers free 3D printing services. Drop in hours are Mondays to Fridays from 10 am to 2 pm. There are also a variety of free workshops offered at the studio on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays each week. For more information, check out the Maker Studio website.