Since their announcement last February, MakerBot Innovation Centers have made a huge impact in the institutions that have installed them, as we’ve had the pleasure of reporting on over the last year. Students at universities across the country have been able to gain access to impressive amounts of advanced technology and, equally as important, the support necessary from a major name in the business to back it up.
Today, Thursday, April 23rd, the first MakerBot Innovation Center among the Big Ten schools, and the first in the Baltimore/Washington, DC region, is celebrating its grand opening. The University of Maryland‘s new Innovation Center houses an incredible 48 MakerBot 3D printers, all ready for students and faculty to use–and just in time for the school’s 30 Days of Entrepreneurship program.
“UMD has consistently been at the forefront of embracing entrepreneurism and collaborative learning,” MakerBot’s Johan Broer told 3DPrint.com.
The hub of the university’s 3D printing activity is the Clark School of Engineering, where 25 3D printers have already been available to students. Projects that have come out of the Clark School have included, according to UMD, vascular grafts, over-sand hovercraft, prostheses, automobile components, and robotics.
“What we’re seeing here is the future of manufacturing in this country,” said Darryll J. Pines, Nariman Farvardin Professor of Aerospace Engineering and Dean of the A. James Clark School of Engineering. “The University of Maryland MakerBot Innovation Center gives our students an edge in the changing and adapting marketplace. We see 3-D printing as a catalyst for new thinking and are excited to make this technology more broadly available at the University.”
With the focus on 3D printing in the school of engineering, the availability of the new Innovation Center will be more than simply a means for curious students to poke around; incoming freshman to the Clark School will utilize the Center nearly from the moment they step on campus, as part of ENES100, a prerequisite for further engineering classes. Of course, it’s not just engineering students who show an interest in the technology. All students will be able to utilize the Innovation Center, bringing to life their visions for business projects, art and jewelry design, science experiments, and more.
“Innovation is an important skill to teach to students,” noted Jordan Brehove, vice president at MakerBot. “By bringing in a large-scale 3D printing lab and providing access to 3D printers to students at an early stage, universities can create an atmosphere of creativity and collaboration that spurs innovation and invention like never before.”
UMD’s Startup Shell, a “student-run incubator and coworking space,” has given rise to more than 60 student-founded startups. Rapid prototyping has been key to the development of much of this success, and the MakerBot Innovation Center is being touted as a new way to aid the process as these startups develop.
“The MakerBot Innovation Center will provide more student entrepreneurs access to 3D printing and may contribute to acceleration of the product development process by allowing students to iterate more quickly and cost-efficiently than with other prototyping resources already available on campus,” Broer told us.
The Innovation Center at UMD features a custom setup, including 48 MakerBot Replicator 3D printers of several varieties and a MakerBot Digitizer Desktop 3D scanner on the hardware side, a supply of MakerBot’s PLA filament on the materials side, and for the support side, MakerBot MakerCare protection plans and the Management Platform that links the system together in the UMD cloud system.
Today’s grand opening festivities include a showcase of student and faculty work, as well as a talk given by the CEO of Local Motors. John “Jay” Rogers who will speak in a presentation called “Welcome to the Third Industrial Revolution – Local Motors and the 3D Printed Car.” Let us know if you attended the grand opening, or know of anyone at UMD who will be using the just-opened facility in the UMD Opens MakerBot Innovation Center forum thread over at 3DPB.com.