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3D Printers for Student Innovation Center
Department of Chemistry
We request funds to purchase 3D printers that will be used to establish the Student Innovation Center in the Department of Chemistry, where students will be able to fabricate objects using a wide range of unique materials. The chief advantage of this center is that is will be housed in a space with ventilation hoods that will enable students to use virtually all materials compatible with the two most common types of 3D printers (FDM/FFF and SLA/DLP, described below). These materials include dozens that are available commercially as well as those that will be produced by students. For comparison, currently, UW students are essentially limited to printing with a single material, poly(lactic acid) (PLA). This is because the existing 3D printers available to students are housed in facilities lacking the ventilation measures necessary to safely use other materials, which may fume or release particulates during printing. At the Student Innovation Center, students will be free to select materials with the properties (e.g., durability, flexibility, conductivity, chemical resistance, etc.) that are best for their specific applications. This will enable a wide range of new student projects and research endeavors.
This Student Technology Fee (STF) proposal requests funding to purchase seven commercial-grade 3D printers for use by students across the broader University of Washington Seattle campus. 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, refers to a family of manufacturing processes in which materials such as thermoplastics, alloys, resins, and gels are selectively deposited and set, usually in a layer-wise manner, under computer control, in order to construct three-dimensional objects. 3D printing is employed in automotive and aerospace industries; in sporting and recreational equipment industries; in consumer goods prototyping and production; in architecture, art, design, and fashion; in prosthetics and density; in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine; and in many other industries. In academic and industrial research, 3D printing has found wide use in a variety of engineering and biomedical research laboratories. Several research groups at UW are focused on creating new materials for 3D printing and many other research groups use 3D printing on a daily basis.
To the best of our knowledge, these 3D printers will be the only ones on campus that will be both available to all students and operated within ventilated hoods. Therefore, they will greatly expand the number of 3D printing materials that can safely be used by students at UW. The proposed Student Innovation Center will be housed on the ground floor of Bagley Hall, in a space that is adjacent to the Department of Chemistry machine shop, which will be renovated for this purpose by the Department of Chemistry. Staff from the Department of Chemistry machine shop will maintain the printers and train students in their operation. The proposed equipment will be used in student education and student research. As the use of 3D printing continues to grow in many industries, it is important to have a space on campus that enables students across various disciplines (e.g., chemistry, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, bioengineering, physics, art, and computer science) to acquire experience with this technology. This equipment will further serve the University of Washington’s commitment to cutting-edge research and innovation; it will provide a highly accessible space for students and researchers to turn ideas into reality in a fast and cost-effective manner, which we expect will encourage more industry-driven research and strengthen students’ employment opportunities post-graduation.
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