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hexacopterAt 3DPrint.com, we always like to keep an eye on the ways that companies and individuals are integrating 3D printing into different parts of society. One company that has been of particular interest is the 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys, which has developed a curriculum to bring 3D printing into classrooms. In January we reported on Boston-based Wentworth Institute of Technology, which has taken the curriculum and run with it. Now Wentworth is back in the news for its creation of a rapid prototyping course utilizing Stratasys’ FDM and PolyJet 3D printing technologies. The interdisciplinary course, which was attended by students from industrial design, mechanical engineering and manufacturing concentrations, gave one major assignment: build a working hexacopter drone using six different processes: CNC turning, CNC milling, resin casting, vacuum forming, laser cutting, and 3D printing. The students would be responsible for designing the hexacopter, building it, wiring it, and, finally, launching it.

The 65 students enrolled in the course were broken into 11 teams, of which 10 had successful hexacopter launches, due largely in part to the 3D printed components of their designs. Most of those components were printed with Stratasys’ uPrint SE and Objet30 3D printers. Many of the students had already taken one of the Stratasys-created 3D printing courses offered by WIT, so were familiar with the process.hex2

“Our design was very influenced by 3D printing,” said senior Nathan Ouellette. “It offered a unique aspect to our design, where we were able to control something in three dimensions, as opposed to just milling it in two dimensions. It offers you a whole new path to prototyping…To be able to design something and then immediately have it in front of you, you’re able to see what you did right, what you did wrong and how you can improve it – it’s something that you can’t do with most manufacturing processes, particularly with this amount of detail.”

The 3D printed components allowed the students to streamline their designs by using customized parts, eliminating the need for additional fasteners and thus making the hexacopters more lightweight. 3d-printed-hexacopterJunior Justin Voytek agreed that 3D printing allowed for much more precision than other processes did, and sped up the process by eliminating the need for tooling processes. “It’s very quick, and we were able to test different pieces just like that,” he said. He also appreciated how easy it was for the team to customize the design.

Stratasys originally developed its “Make Something That Moves Something” curriculum in response to the growing demand for professionals with 3D printing expertise. At the rate the technology is advancing, it is increasingly important to start training college students now so that they can have a solid 3D print foundation before entering such a rapidly growing and changing industry.

“We are seeing a global arms race emerging for engineering and advanced manufacturing skills. This is requiring institutions to focus on graduating students with a full spectrum of career ready skills,” said Sig Behrens, General Manager of Global Education at Stratasys.  “One key way of making this a reality is for students to engage in project based learning initiatives, like what WIT has committed to and Stratasys has supported.”

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