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Plan for two new 3D printers in the works

Learning Commons looks to purchase two new 3D printers, while students question why.

According to Education Services Administrator and budget manager of the Learning Commons, Ms. Diane Dougherty, Malvern Prep intends to purchase two new 3D printers for next year. One of the new printers would be smaller scale and more everyday, and the other be larger and more advanced, said Dougherty.

These printers may even come with scanning capabilities. Dougherty described a camera that circles the perimeter of the printer to capture the dimensions of an object, in order to print a duplicate.

The proposed new printers are part of a greater vision for an enhanced maker lab, said Dougherty. She estimates the combined costs of the two new printers to be around $3000.

Some students and faculty members see extreme value in new 3D printers.

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Mike Droogan and Ben Yankelitis inspect items printed with the 3D printer in the LC / J. Bennett

Incoming Student Council President Alex Freud said “I think if we were to get two new 3D printers they would become beneficial to the students because with just one no one can really use it but if we were to get more I think students would have the opportunity to use them and it could be a very good resource to have.”

“We want to enable students to reach the higher tiers of Bloom’s taxonomy. Knowledge and understanding are great, but who cares if you aren’t doing something with them?,” said Science Teacher and Department Leader Mr. Kevin Quinn. “As we push for more and more student creation it helps to have tools that will support that cause.”

However, others are skeptical.

The inactive and limited use of the current Learning Commons 3D printer has become the brunt of a joke. A 3D printer was installed in the Learning Commons when it opened in Fall 2013. This printer has not been functional since Fall 2014.

When introduced with the idea of two new 3D printers, many questioned the reasoning. “Why would we do that?” said incoming Student Council Vice President Ted Holleran ’16. Alex Yablonski ’15 wondered, “Why not just reduce tuition?”
Dougherty said the motor on the current printer has been broken since this past fall and the company to replace the part has gone out of business. The current 3D printer will be given to the Robotics team.

“We are hoping to figure out what is wrong and fix it or salvage parts to build our own,” said Quinn, who is also the adviser of the Robotics team. “The printer is still 95% functional, so it’d be a waste to toss it out.”

Dougherty would like to safeguard against another 3D printer becoming broken by having the Student Tech team assemble the new 3D printer. By doing so, if the printer were to break down again there would be students who know it from the ground up for repair.

“You open up the box and they have to assemble it so they would literally know from the nuts and the bolts how this machinery runs so if there were any mechanical difficulties they would be responsible for it,” said Dougherty.

Even when in use, some students doubt the quality of work able to be produced from the technology. Yablonski said, “So far, our 3D printer has just made desk candy. I haven’t seen anything like substantial, important, or relevant come out of it.”

However, Quinn mentioned the usage of the 3D printer to produce a battery by Jack Murphy ’15, and a model of the Malvern Chapel by Jack Szipszky ’17.

Some 3D printers run on a program named CAD, or Computer-Aided Design. Quinn said that there are various other programs, such as Google Sketchup, that can help a student designing a product for the 3D printer without extensive CAD knowledge.

Dougherty is looking into printers made by companies such as Thingiverse that have preloaded designs that make it extremely easy for students to print certain items.

Dougherty said that the middle schoolers have been avidly using a second 3D printer in the Middle School. Eighth Grade Science Teacher Mrs. Vernice Mulcahy said, “Early in the year, there was a line of things to be printed.”

As part of their experiential learning block, middle school students often printed out things like iPhone cases or other preloaded items in the Thingiverse database. “It was just about the novelty to create anything that want,” said Mulcahy.

Since then, middle schoolers have started to create other things like an Intramural trophy or paper football upright.

“A lot of students are using TinkerCad [in the middle school],” said Mulcahy. “It’s free and really easy to use.”
Mulcahy is looking into purchasing another 3D printer for the middle school next year, and specifically one with a scanner. The students would like to scan President Fr. James Flynn’s head for B.A.S.H. using the 3D printer scanning function, said Mulcahy.

With the student-centered learning approach of Malvern, it appears as if 3D printing will be an integral part as we move forward. “The 3D printer is like a book waiting to be opened,” said Amir Webb ’17. “It is a like a new world waiting to be discovered.”

Teachers like Quinn and Dougherty hope that students start to see the value in the capabilities in coming years.

“I think so far 3D printing has really become the brunt of the joke because the printer has just sat in there mostly, and it’s unfortunate,” said Quinn. “It’s a shame because it is a really game-changing technology that would be nice to incorporate.”

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Dust on the 3D printer in the LC, which has been out of order since Fall 2014 / J. Bennett

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