The Mechanical Engineering Department at Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins has opened a 3D printing laboratory, aptly called Idea 2 Product, as the faculty is fully conversant with the benefits the technology can bring to the design, engineering and innovation process for training students. However, beyond student training, the department, led by senior research scientist David Prawel, who has been at the vanguard of 3D technologies for many years, is opening up the lab at CSU and offering its resources to the surrounding community too.
Facilities at the Idea to Product lab include five 3D printing platforms, with two more scheduled to arrive in the near future to take the total up to seven, and meet the anticipated increased demand from this announcement. The 3D printers are capable of processing up to 18 different materials and therefore offer wide scope for new innovation in developing product ideas.
The aim here is now to make the technology as accessible as possible to people that are unable to invest in the technology themselves at this time, but who, nevertheless have creative ideas that they want to materialise.
“We provide the equipment and expertise. Our users provide the ideas and innovation. You can’t steer innovation – you just have to provide the tools and put some water on it and let it go,” commented Prawel.
The labs equipment and software is funded by contributions from Autodesk, (local 3DP manufacturer) Lulzbot, Advanced Manufacturing Enterprises, the CSU Mechanical Engineering Department and by CSU students through the university’s Student Fee Review Board.
The Idea to Product lab will be staffed by current and graduated students from the department to provide assistance with the equipment and for general support. A nominal fee is required to use the facilities provided in order to cover costs of materials and maintenance.