UntitledHere at 3DPrint.com we spend a lot of time discussing the benefits of 3D printing and how they are relevant around the world from offering transformation in manufacturing to allowing for incredible self-sustainability in developing nations. Around the globe, thanks to 3D printing, many can look forward to a better quality of life and better healthcare. We can look forward to more independence in making things as artists, designers, and engineers. From saving lives to completing work projects to just goofing off, the 3D printer is a new impetus for creation—and change.

One segment where 3D printing is also charging ahead and allowing for enormous opportunity is that of the business owner and the fledgling marketer and entrepreneur. From storefronts to new service bureaus, many businesses are opening and are centered around this new technology. And while we often discuss how crucial it is right now to get 3D printing into school curricula for the younger set, bringing them up right so that they can one day step into amazing jobs with comprehensive skill sets, what about the here and now for business students? While it’s great to be working on the future, employers are also desperately looking for graduates who have what it takes in digital design and 3D printing today.

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Dr. Jeffrey Clements

One other very important element however, is the importance 3D printing can play just in allowing students to complete projects while they are in school.  And Ogden, Utah’s Weber State University has taken the lead to see that their students are very well-equipped with the tools they need, allowing them to go past concepts and plans to actual prototypes and physical products. At their John B. Goddard School of Business & Economics, one of the fundamental design courses in information systems and technologies has for years required that students attending the class make websites and develop databases.

Times are changing though, and it’s time to switch things up—according to a tech savvy group at the business school who wanted to go in a new direction with 3D printing. Their idea was to use the technology to go beyond conceptual projects and web design. With 3D printers they could take projects all the way through to the prototyping and production stage and then develop data regarding sales and other information. It’s not too surprising to hear that they had support with their ideas, and with the okay from the business school Dean, assistant professor Jeff Clements used research funds to buy the 3D printers.

“3D Printing is an emerging technology that has the capability to change the face of the business environment in a way we haven’t seen since the industrial revolution,” Clements said. “Business students should know how this technology works.”

He was then responsible for integrating the technology into the Information Systems & Technologies (IST) program, excited about extending both learning and enthusiasm further for his students, allowing them to do more within the class, and add to their skill set.

“We really want students to have the opportunity to do some interesting, cutting-edge things that help them understand not only the business environment today, but also what the business environment will look like in the future,” Clements said.

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Image: Weber State University

Nothing propels budding entrepreneurs into a bright future more than working on challenging, stimulating, and fun concepts—and especially those that result in physical products they can hold in their hands—and use as models in presentations. Not only that, they are busy creating things that may be in use for years to come.

“The course taught me that if I can think of it — I can create it,” said IST senior Chris Heywood.

The technology is allowing them to work on several other levels as well, doing good for the community, networking, and collaborating. Their assignment for this semester involves 3D printing a product for both Weber and David Counties. Whatever students create is meant to work as a benefit for recreational outdoor communities in the area—and in deciding what to make, they were instructed to find out what the needs actually were for businesses in the area.

The students are also expected to perfect their skills in 3D modeling and printing—and obviously, that could be a course all in itself, not to mention factoring in an entire class business plan.

Coming up with an idea that really should be useful, Brandon Kasteler is making a showerhead and adaptor that will connect to a simple water bottle—offering outdoor showers.

“Having been outdoors a lot, I recognize a shower is something I would use, and I think other people might be motivated to purchase one as well,” Kasteler, an IST senior, said.

Clements shares that the students, involved in designing and employing modeling software, along with 3D printing, often experience bumps along the way.

“If they aren’t careful, sometimes students find holes or gaps in their printed product or an accessory would be missing because it wasn’t quite attached in the design,” Clements said.

This is another perfect learning experience not just in establishing a new skillset as well as managing a project, but it’s also pretty good real-life experience for what owning a business and making and marketing real products is really like.

“The environment at Weber State is so supportive,” Clements said. “That support has helped me hone my desire to be creative and impact students.”

No doubt Clements and his students will work as role models for other schools considering implementing such technology and coursework for business students. This is actually the second semester for the IST course. Their results have produced enthusiasm, collaboration—and they now have five 3D printers, thanks to a contribution from The Hall Global Entrepreneurship Program at WSU. Are you currently taking any classes that involve 3D printing and business? Discuss in the Weber State University & 3D Printing forum over at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Weber State University]
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