Bringing ideas to life with 3-D printers

3-D printed objects created by students in the Durham College, UOIT library, displayed at a workshop. Photo credit: Morgan Kelly

Rat skeletons, characters for role-play games, organ diagrams and Christmas presents are some examples of what the 3-D printers at Durham College (DC) and UOIT can bring to life.

The first 3-D printer to arrive on campus was in 2014 at the downtown UOIT location. Now, DC and UOIT have three printers, which cost $1,500 to $2,500.

Students and faculty from DC and UOIT were able to learn more about the printers at workshops held in mid-November at the north Oshawa and Whitby campuses.

There was a small turnout at the first workshop located in the basement of the north Oshawa library due to an issue with registration. Luckily, passing students were able to drop-in to learn more.

“A friend of mine, told me about (the workshop) because he bought a 3-D printer and he doesn’t know how it works, so we came here to learn,” says Felipe Leitelobo, 35, a visiting scholar at UOIT.

Librarian Kate Gibbings, 37, and student employee and 3-D printing assistant Mark Rizk, 20, were the hosts of the workshops for the week.

Rizk has been an assistant since September but says he has been interested and familiar with 3-D design software since his first year in high school.

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Mark Rizk (second from right), a 3-D design assistant, helps students at Durham College and UOIT learn about 3-D printing projects. Photo credit: Morgan Kelly

The first workshop was: Introduction to 3-D Printing. A handful of students discussed their design ideas and learned about 3-D printing software and websites with free and licensed 3-D designs.

One of the websites students explored for free designs is called Rizk demonstrated how to select designs on Thingiverse and upload them to a free 3-D printing software, Cura.

Cura allows the user to scale, modify and rotate their design to provide the best printing quality.

Another software used was Tinkercad, which allows users to create 3-D designs from two-dimensional sketches. Students played around with Tinkercad in the second workshop: Beginner Design for 3-D Printing.

“I say the biggest issue for a beginner would be how to make an efficient design,” says Rizk.

“It’s a lot of trial and error,” Gibbings adds. “I don’t have an engineering background but some of the stuff that sounds complicated, you try something, it didn’t work … you do it again, it can be that simple.”

Rizk says they see a lot of mechanical engineering students who use the 3-D printers for their capstone projects during November. At the beginning of the year, they see more personal projects.

“Someone was doing sort of a costume for like a (comic) con,” recalls Gibbings. “It did have multiple, multiple parts … so much planning and learning, trial and error, it was really just at a high level of what they were doing and learning as they went along.”

Printing projects cost $1.50 per hour which covers the price of the filament used for printing. Depending on the size of the project, Rizk says prints can take as little as 30 minutes or as much as 12 hours to complete and are monitored in case something goes wrong.

Students can apply for a 3-D printing project by filling out a request form for the north Oshawa library or downtown UOIT campus.

For those who missed the workshops, email or visit the library reference desk during Rizk’s office hours for questions.