Helicopters, holsters, and the Massilon Amateur Radio Club

Hello everyone,

Sorry for the missing blog entry last week, as yours truly was on vacation and needed a break!  Now back to the job and refreshed, it’s time to dig into the latest exciting things happening in the 3D Lab at The University of Akron Wayne College.

With engineering classes in full-swing, the 3D printed weighted cubes worked well for the LEGO Mindstorms robots that tossed them.  Now students are building robots to carry and drag heavy loads.  3D printers are currently creating student designed sleds that their robots will pull.  More about this activity in the next blog.

As mentioned last week, the 3D Lab offered a virtual demonstration of laser cutting and engraving to students of Dalton Middle School.  The session was a wonderful success!  Each student designed model helicopter parts with pencil & paper which were scanned into the computer, traced with vector art software, then laser cut and engraved.   The results are shown below:



If you can’t visualize how these parts assemble into helicopters, then you are in good company; neither can I!  But the instructor will reveal the final result when the helicopters are finished soon.  The kids also made their own gravity helicopters out of cardboard and were visited by a real one landing in their schools yard a couple of weeks ago!

Earlier in the week, Nathan’s involvement with the Armed Forces prompted him to try a new project with the laser engraver, a leather gun holster made from scratch.  Upon reading the engraver’s manual, we found that that the engraver fully supports engraving and cutting leather.  This was especially helpful for cutting holes that are needed for stitching leather together.  There were specific laser power and speed settings for leather, so with a little experiementing it worked perfectly!  Suprisingly, the cutting process emitted a nasty odor that permeated the room.


The last step is wet forming the leather pieces into a mold around the firearm.  We are interested to see how the final result will look.  Good job, Nathan!


Last Friday, we took the portable 3D printer (provided by the Romich Foundation) to the Massillon Amateur Radio Club for a presentation on 3D printing and careers in engineering.  Since 1927, the Club has been a diverse radio hobbyist club that is currently over 80 members strong. Active within their community as well as an ARRL Special Service Club, it is actively involved in many facets of Amateur Radio, including Public ServiceMembership, Field Day, Repeaters, Amateur Television (ATV), Skywarn plus many other interests.

The room was packed with over 40 people.  The presentation on 3D printing was so well received that members talked about it for days.  As the group is technical in nature, they had many interesting questions, especially how 3D printing can benefit amateur radio and their personal lives.




Stay tuned as we cover more about the Mindstorms robotics project and other interesting things happening in the 3D Lab!



See how scientists are using 3D printing to deliver medicine using micro-needles:



A new production process makes PLA bioplastic cheaper and greener:



Until next week,



Cube tossing robots, laser cut boxes, and a drawer coin organizer

Hello everyone,

It’s amazing how far we have come since the 3D Lab’s opening in January 2014.  Looking back, we’ve collaborated with 18 community organizations, a dozen businesses, and another dozen schools.  We’ve made over 20 visits to these locations to demonstrate 3D printing, using the portable 3D printer provided by the Romich Foundation.  Our impact to the community is substantial, a testament of the need for polytechnic skills to be introduced to all generations.

A case in-point, an employee of Orrville City Schools brought his son and friend to the 3D Lab for a laser cutting and engraving project.  They wanted to construction a “suggestions box” made from plywood.  They entered the desired box dimensions and wood thickness into www.makercase.com which provided laser-cut ready files.  The box sides are cut “dovetailed” to be easily glued together.  It was wonderful to see young people learn this advanced technology for the first time (and so easily they mastered it)!



Wayne College engineering students are busily building different LEGO Mindstorms robots every two weeks to perform various tasks.  These robot toss a ball, locate and drive to colored markers, push each other off platforms, and more.  The lab’s 3D printers are put to heavy use, creating many 3” cubes with hollowed insides.  This produces different weights depending upon the internal cavity shape.  Students then use MatLab to mathematically determine how much motor power is need to toss the cube a set distance.  Stay tuned as we report of the success of the block toss results!


3D printer creating boxes with custom cavities


Finished boxes of varying weights


In-progress robot construction

If you remember last month, Andrew from the Technical Support Services department designed an instantly useful bookbag hanger for desks.  He is at it again, this time with a coin organizer for desk drawers.  It not only stacks coins of similar value, but allows easy dispensing from the bottom of the stack.  It works very well and fits our desk drawers perfectly.  Thanks, Andrew!  If you would like a dispenser, please let us know.


The 3D Lab’s laser engraver (generously provided by the Romich Foundation) is frequently used for interesting projects.  An adventurous student learned how to engrave the back of his iPhone with excellent results.  Thankfully the laser did not cut the phone in half instead.  🙂  His latest creation is artwork for his laptop.  The cover is anodized aluminum, perfect for engraving.  The laser burns away the painted coating, revealing the white metal beneath.  As you can see, the result is beautiful!


We have lots more to report in the 3D Lab; stay tuned next week.



Now that the International Space Station has a 3D printer, why not create “pods” that grow food in space?  The AstroGro system does just that:



See how NASA uses 3D printing to create a high-performance  “astro pump” (90,000 revolutions per minute) that uses 45% fewer parts than traditional pumps:



Until next week,



Microscopes, ukeleles, and Skype demo of the laser engraver

Hello everyone,

The fifth week of the semester draws to a close.  Engineering students built robots for a ball tossing competition, so the lab was full of moving parts and whirring motors.  Their next assigning is to build robots that will seek and capture colored objects in a defined area.  But here in the 3D Lab, that is only half of the story.  Students of various disciplines print pre-designed objects from Thingiverse, others learn how to use the laser engraver to create beautiful gifts, and community members spend time interacting with students and inventing things in CAD.  It is wonderful to see the different activities going on in that room each day; the energy is contagious!

Over the past several weeks, a community member invented a way to turn a standard school microscope into a web enabled one.  This way, the microscope can broadcast its image via Skype or other video conferencing software.  Using the free AutoDesk 123D Design CAD program, he designed an adapter that attaches a run-of-mill webcam to the microscope’s eyepiece.  The adapter sets the webcam’s focal length perfectly for a clear picture.  What an amazing way to repurpose “last generation” microscopes to web enabled equipment in a low-cost way!


Original microscope and webcam



Webcam adapter made with 3D printing


Some assembly required


The finished product!

Some of our students this semester are musically inclined.  Josh is currently using the Solidworks CAD program to design a lap harp (also known as a chamber harp).  He is printing the first piece of the instrument today; more news later as the project progresses.  Another student found an excellent, pre-made ukulele design on Thingiverse.  It is 3D printed in 10 parts, then assembled.  He added some guitar string, tensioned it for the various pitches, and now has a working instrument.  And it works rather well!  He still has to learn how to play one, to the dismay of the strange music he was plucking.  🙂



Earlier this week, we invited students from Dalton Middle School to the 3D Lab to learn laser cutting and engraving.  They are building model helicopters using balsa wood.  Students drew designs on-paper which were scanned and imported into Corel DRAW.  The designs were used as backgrounds for tracing lines and boxes using the vector art software which are then be laser-cut onto the wood boards.

The neat thing is that it was a virtual field trip, using Skype to broadcast the activity from the 3D Lab to their classroom!  Anthony did a wonderful job as cameraman.  It was a big success and the students had lots of questions throughout.


Demonstrating Corel DRAW via webcam


Operating the laser engraver


Broadcasting laser cutting to the Dalton classroom


Speaking of laser engraving, a particularly brave student wanted to engrave a design onto the back of his iPhone.  After some research, he discovered that the phone’s casing is made of anodized aluminum with is compatible with the laser engraver.  The laser company (Epilog) publishes recommended laser power and speed settings for various materials, so we were all set.  We placed a piece of acryllic on the phone for a “test engrave” to check the positioning of the image.  Then the acryllic was removed and the phone engraved with the laser.  The result was beautiful!  Thankfully we did not cut the phone in half.  🙂



Stay tuned next week as we report on the 3D Lab’s involvement with the UA Baja Racing Team project!



3D printing technology makes contributions to third-world countries.  See how this printer hopes to melts down and repurpose the world’s plastic, glass, metal, concrete, and other solid waste into new products.



See how his 40-foot 3D printer can build entire houses out of mud or clay”



Until next week,