Purdue University’s C Design Lab ME444 class is a shining example of how rewarding education can be for both teacher and students alike. No matter the age level, toys are still fun—and especially on the maker level. And now we’re seeing quite an inventory of new—and some rather complex—toys coming from Purdue as the C Design Lab students make a number of inventions for their ME444 class in an assignment from Dr. Karthik Ramani, encouraging future engineers to work on creative visual thinking and innovation—all using the EnvisionTEC Xtreme 3SP, with this model name standing for scan, spin, and selectively photocure.
Dr. Ramani has been teaching in the Purdue University School of Mechanical Engineering for 25 years, with his design classes 3D printing for twenty years now. And yes, you are reading that correctly.
“In the very early years of the class, we adopted the idea of why not make it more fun and playful, and have the students design toys,” says Dr. Ramani (see the video below). “Toys are a fun way for students to relate and build something with a purpose.”
Dr. Ramani believes in getting back to basics in the teaching of engineering, with a focus on what should be learned first (like drawing), while still too maintaining a focus on learning CAD. This is a subject we see outlined in a paper he co-authored with Elkin Taborda and Senthil K Chandrasegaran, ‘ME 444: Redesigning a Toy Design Course.’
The idea is to give students a strong framework in courses such as his, not just so that they can make complex, interesting toys and earn their A, but mainly so that they go from A to Z in learning engineering skills, along with emerging with strong CAD skills. The authors of the paper point out that CAD is viewed as an important, if not crucial, medium for use because of its predominance within the industry, and because of its versatility for a range of applications. They have a strong desire to take students back to learning freehand sketching first, however, allowing graduates to enter the real world with comprehensive skills, rather than just digital.
With the goal to train superior engineers, rather than just mediocre ones, the authors took a look at what the priorities truly should be considered in providing students with true skills for the future. In doing so, they came up with the concept of i8. Their concept encompasses ‘the consolidation of the fundamentals for creativity and innovation on engineering design,’ to include:
- Impact for innovation
“Inspiration and insight are the starting point. Ideation and imagination support the design concept creation and exploration,” state the authors in their paper. “Iteration and implementation are present in every design process at every stage and keep the previous four ‘i’s present all around the process. Finally every design is intended to have impact, by solving the initial problem, satisfying needs or at least originating more ideas.”
“3D printers play a really important role in this class because the students can get their modeling products quickly, and they can see how it is going to apply in the real world,” says Sujin Jang, teacher’s assistant.
The ‘core idea’ of the new approach as the course was redesigned several years ago exhibits a focus on creative ideas, freehand sketching, and an emphasis on prototyping ‘earlier and cheaper’ in the design process. They use, as is shown with the EnvisionTEC machine, SLA 3D printing, and they are given a budget for the production of the toys, which includes the purchasing of components. Dr. Ramani has quite specifically selected the tools which the students are using. Their use of SLA 3D printers in the lab is obviously one that was thought out and tested.
EnvisionTEC, headquartered in both Germany and the US, is a manufacturer we follow continuously as they release new hardware, collaborate on new materials, and go on to expand as a leader in manufacturing.
“Basically, the students and everyone in the real world want the 3D machines to print functioning prototypes that can work almost like the real one,” says Dr. Ramani. “We did an extensive benchmarking of machines, and when we were doing that what we found was that the EnvisionTEC machine was able to produce very precise parts which no other machines are currently able to do.”
“You need several parts to produce a toy, and all these parts can be laid out on a platform. Because of the high speed of the machine, we can cover a lot of volume.”
Although what we are seeing from Purdue certainly takes toy making to a new level, we’ve written quite a lot in the past few years about how 3D printing is changing the face of both toy innovation and manufacturing, allowing many not only to create where they have not been able to previously, and also allowing numerous small toy companies into the industry where previously they never would have been able to afford such a venture. Along with these incredible innovation coming from learning institutions such as Purdue, we also see products in the marketplace now like interactive toy robot kits and even pint-sized 3D printers that make their own toys, with the list of 3D printed fun continuing to grow daily—along with learning for everyone of all ages. Discuss further over in the Purdue 3D Printing Toys forum at 3DPB.com.