Professor Kristina Shea, the head of the Engineering Design and Computing Laboratory (EDAC) at ETH Zürich, says that one of the key projects in a course that she teaches, is the customizing and building of a balloon-powered car model. The project was selected to challenge students to design – and 3D print – various iterations of parts for their cars.
“Thanks to 3D printing technology, we’ve given students the tools to design and prototype the wheel spokes and the top of the cars. The first time we 3D printed parts, we did it in six days, running overnight,” Shea says. “With nine parts to each car, it was a huge job, therefore you can see why the reliability of a professional 3D printer was integral to such a large investment.”
So the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zürich, invested in multiple Stratasys uPrint SE Plus 3D printers for their undergraduate engineering design students. Shea says the objective was to completely modernize the school’s Technical Drawing and CAD course by installing the latest technologies. According to Shea, the school selected the Stratasys’ uPrint SE Plus printers for their reliability and ability to produce high-quality, functional parts.
“The course has between 450-500 students, so reliability was essential and a big part of our decision to invest in a professional 3D printer. We had previously relied on CAD and modeling on a screen, but using high-quality, functional physical models ensures students are far more engaged,” Shea says.
The parts for the cars were all made with ABSplus FDM material, as this material was selected for its mechanical strength and stability. The uPrint SE Plus 3D can print layer thicknesses of 0.330mm and 0.254mm, and those specs meet the needs for the precision that the students required.
Shea says she was interested in the effect using 3D printed models would have on her students’ motivation.
“With 3D printing, we saw increased motivation in learning to use the CAD software. The appreciation of scale and the importance of production tolerances grew when the customized parts the students had designed were 3D printed and assembled,” Shea says. “Even though design manufacturing guidelines were provided, there were marked increases in understanding as a result of the material realization of their designs.”
Sig Behrens, the General Manager for Global Education at Stratasys says he believes engineering students are empowered by learning 3D printing skills, and he adds that the requirements of the modern workplace means leading institutions will continue to commit investments into the technology.
“The ability to access and familiarize students with professional 3D printing technology is incredibly important, because these are tomorrow’s designers and engineers,” Behrens says. “With its desire to embrace 3D printing, ETH Zurich is bridging the gap between academia and industry by fulfilling the demand for skills that employers are seeking.”
Do you thinks engineering programs will fully embrace 3D printing technology as part of their curriculum? Let us know in the Balloon-powered Car Models forum thread on 3DPB.com.