3d printers

From Model Birds to Mini Boba Fett, Milner Library 3D Printers Meet Redbird Demand

Rachael DiSciullo needed a new stuffed house wren. The taxidermy model she had used for her thesis research on the mating habits of birds was worn out.

“Wrens can be quite aggressive,” explained DiSciullo, a doctoral student in the School of Biological Sciences. She conducts her research under the guidance of Drs. Scott Sakaluk and Charles Thompson, whose lab has been conducting an ongoing study of house wrens since 1980.

DiSciullo was looking for an alternative to a dead wren and, if possible, a cohort of models, for a study she was conducting in the summer of 2021. She planned to place the male wren mimics in nest boxes at a nature preserve near Lexington , then play birdsong. she had recorded and edited from her sample population to study which components of male song are appealing to females.

“The (domestic) wrens are in no way endangered, but it’s best not to use real animals from a museum collection,” she said. “The other thing is that there is a statistical problem called pseudo-replication. When you post research, reviewers may worry that if there is only one pattern, there is something weird about that particular bird that individuals are reacting to, rather than just using it as a kind of stimulus itself.

Sakaluk had read that other researchers used 3D printed birds in their studies. It was then that DiSciullo turned to the Milner Library, which offers free 3d printing services Illinois State students, faculty, and staff. The library was able to find a pre-existing 3D model of a wren and produced five for the lab.

“I think those are great,” DiSciullo said. “The MSc student (Madi Rittinger MS ’21) who painted them also did a great job.”

Since purchasing a 3D printer in 2018, the library has completed 1,662 projects (as of mid-October) and is on track to surpass the previous semester’s peak (see chart). Three printers have been added in the last three years, while the original serves as a backup.

“We plan to retire that one,” said Paul Unsbee ’04, MS ’15, director of computer services for the library. “But we’ve had such a massive increase in engagement this semester that we’re enjoying it for all it has.”

The graph shows the number of 3D printing projects the Milner Library has completed each semester since the service began in 2018.

Unlike many universities with 3D printers, Milner Library staff oversee the printing themselves, free of charge. “We decided to do this because very few students have the time or interest to learn how a 3D printer works, and we have courses that teach you that on campus if you want to learn that,” said Unsbee.

The person behind the machines is Library Digital Media Specialist Steve Koehler ’06, a former of what is now the Creative Technologies Program.

“It’s really in my wheelhouse,” Koehler said. “It’s creative, it’s technological, and I’m constantly doing new things. I like.”

With the help of hardworking student Jay Yonan, Koehler processes requests and sets parameters for each print job. Then the printers get to work. Projects take an average of five hours to print but can last longer than a day. Once the print is complete, Koehler removes the supports, which can be a tedious task.

Projects submitted range from silly to serious and small to large. A student requested a miniature figurine of the popular star wars character Boba Fett; many others asked for Reggie Redbird heads. The library created a set of large dice labeled on all sides with different musical notes for students to use when practicing their instruments. The researchers requested Mobius strips, microscope adapters and even a small treadmill for a cockroach study.

Additionally, during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Milner staff organized and led a team of IT units with 3D printers on campus, which included the College of Business and Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts, to collectively manufacture 900 face shields for the Mclean County Emergency Management Agency.

“Very little of what we do is a life or death scenario in IT support, but it was when we were printing face shields for McLean County. These were going to medics and first responders,” Unsbee said. “Some of these use cases are outside of our wildest fever dreams. It’s always interesting to see what comes next.

Milner Library 3D Printing Services

The Milner Library 3D Printing Service is free to Illinois State students, faculty, and staff. Redbirds simply need to submit an application through the library websitewhich includes links to resources on finding or creating 3D models and how to submit a request scan an object.

Redbirds can submit their own 3D model designs, but it’s more common for them to use publicly available repositories, like Thingivers. Due to high demand, it takes approximately one to two weeks for the library to respond to requests.

Project Wren led Milner to expand its 3D capabilities.

“(The researchers) were hoping that we could create a model for them based on their existing taxidermy model,” Unsbee said. “But we don’t have the in-house staff expertise to create a model from scratch. We were very lucky and found a pre-existing model that met their specifications. But it got us thinking, ‘How can we bridge this gap somehow?’ »

This thought process culminated in the library purchasing a 3D scanner that went online this semester. “You can simply place an object on the scanner, and the stereoscopic camera system will automatically create a pattern as it rotates and scans the object,” Unsbee said. “It’s really cool.”

It’s also just the latest extension of a service that brings Redbird’s ideas to 3D.