Before I visited Illinois Institute of Technology, I had no idea what a 3D printer was. Then I toured the Idea Shop. This area on IIT’s campus encourages innovation and collaboration, mostly through multidisciplinary Interprofessional Projects Program teams.
The Idea Shop’s prototype lab has machines (such as a 3D printer) to help students develop solutions to real-world problems. Students use these tools to turn digital designs into physical forms.
For example, one group was working to improve handles on bathroom railings, to make them more user-friendly for people with disabilities. The group designed its first model in clay. A 3D printer enabled students to produce a more exact prototype. Some of the machines offer accuracy down to .001 inch.
In college, the only printers I used were dot-matrix (do you remember the perforated paper with holes down each side?). It’s not even close to being in the same league as a 3D printer, capable of computer-controlled machining with a 4th axis that allows additional rotation of the part. It enables precision not possible by human machinists.
The Tellabs Foundation recently pledged $100,000 to help IIT purchase new equipment for the Idea Shop. I’m impressed with IIT’s commitment to provide state-of-the-art technology to undergraduate students. Great tools will help inspire great results.