3d printers

Students are encouraged to embrace 3D printers—for fun

Printed replica of the bust of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius.

Israel sits in the office’s new location in Jewett Hall, where three printers hum quietly in the background as they gradually assemble their objects. A bust of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius is built piece by piece, the replica of a original artifact which is housed in the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

It’s made from a degradable plastic alternative called PLA, and by the time it’s finished, this piece will have taken about 135 hours to print, says Israel, who is keen to let students know that this technology is available for everybody. The design work is done on a computer screen using software, he explains, and then loaded onto a data card, which is inserted into the printing machine. Everything you have designed then begins to take shape.

“Part of what we do here is to support professors in their teaching, such as the bust of Antoninus Pius, which will be used by professors in the classics department,” Israel explains. “But we’re also here for students who want to do stuff outside of the classroom, just for fun. Either me or one of my colleagues can be found here most afternoons and early evenings to lend a hand,” says Israel.

Shea Tyrrell, 24, a student worker ready to provide training and assistance, whose involvement in this type of technology dates back to her high school days. “I took a course using 3D printers and really got into modeling.” By the time he arrived in Bowdoin, Tyrrell already had his own printer. “Since my arrival here, I have learned a lot about the maintenance and repair of these machines. Once you’ve mastered the software,” he says, “It’s a really fun way to create things. Everything you imagine is just beginning to appear before your eyes!”

Israel and his team are working to create what he calls an “authentic creative space” where students can create and display their non-academic endeavors. “We’re also looking for funds to add a laser engraver and vinyl cutter to complement our offerings because that’s what students are asking for,” Israel says. “So whether you want to build a delicately crafted work of art, a Star Wars model replica, or something more practical like a laptop stand, come on over to Jewett.”

More information about 3D printing at Bowdoin.