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APSU's new 3-D printers help students gain experience needed

7/10/2012

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This photo shows many of the items engineering technology students at APSU have made using new three-dimensional printers. (Photo by Beth Liggett, APSU photographer)

Students enrolled in the engineering technology degree program at the Austin Peay Center @ Fort Campbell may be amazed to see the colorful, three-dimensional objects they create using new specialized machines.

However, they are gaining a lot more. The new state-of-the-art three-dimensional (3-D) printers are the tools used in the automotive and manufacturing industries, such as aerospace, medical, product design and small quantity commercial product manufacturing. This means students are getting the knowledge they need to use in the workforce.

Today’s 3-D printers and other additive manufacturing machines are not designed for mass production. Many manufacturing production companies uses machinery that cut or subtract material out of a stock to form the shape of the product. This approach is called subtractive manufacturing (SM).

In recent years, another approach was developed that uses the material to build, usually by adding the material layer by layer, the shape of product. This is called additive manufacturing (AM).

“Although the AM technologies were originally aimed on rapid prototyping, because of the improvement of material properties and production precision,  can now make end use products and not just prototypes,” said Dr. Chin-Zue Chen, professor of engineering technology. “AM technology actually changes the way we design products and the way we produce them.”

The APSU Department of Engineering Technology included additive manufacturing as a new option to its manufacturing curriculum to make students aware of this new technology in general and to prepare the students who want to pursue this technology for their career, as well as in response to the market demand, Chen said.

The three machines – Fortus250 mc, Objet Alaris30 and Z Printer 450 – are used in engineering technology courses at APSU’s Fort Campbell Center. The 3-D printing machines are connected to computer software that translates computer-aided design (CAD) drawings into three-dimensional products.

APSU offers associate and bachelor’s degrees in engineering technology, both of which prepare students for industrial careers by transforming concepts into reality through practical applications of technology.

For more information about APSU’s degree programs in engineering technology, call the APSU School of Technology and Public Management at 931-221-1470. The programs are housed at the Austin Peay Center @ Fort Campbell. - Dr. Melony Shemberger