Printing tiny things, water pumps, and a visit to Fairless Middle School

Hello everyone,

As the weather grows cooler outside with the approaching fall, it’s all the more reason to spend time crafting projects in the warm 3D Lab!  3D printers and laser cutters generate a lot of heat.  🙂  Community members and student engineers hang-out in the Lab and Lounge on a regular basis, making for fun times and interesting conversations.  The 3D Lab is not simply about the technology available in the room, but the sense of community among its participants.  There is an energy and atmosphere that makes the lab and fun place to be, where folks have fun making and learning, too.


Tristan, one of our students, never ceases to amaze us with his inventive pursuits.  He is always interested in something and the subject matter seems to change each week!  Lately, Tristan discovered that Nikola Tesla, the fellow famous for his experiments with electricity, also studied fluid dynamics.  He invented a turbine that transfers the energy of a high pressure fluid into a low-torque rotational force.

Fluid flows through the device’s input valve which is tangent to the disc’s circumference.  The fluid drags along the closely spaced discs as it spirals around to the origin of the discs where the pressure is much lower.  The spiraling action caused by centrifugal force is the reason behind the turbine’s efficiency.  Also called a “Micro Stirling Engine”, the Tesla Turbine was patented in 1909.


Tristan used Solidworks to create a 3D design of the turbine based on depictions and theories that he found on the Internet.  He cut the stacked spinning discs out of acrylic with our laser cutter, then fabricated the supporting rings, spacers, and frame with 3D printing.  The result was professional!

Tristan’s turbine design moves fluids quite well.  If you are interested in building a simplified water pump with a 3D printer, check-out this Instructable here.


3D printers have come a long way since we opened the 3D Lab four years ago.  For intricate parts, laser based resin printers ruled the roost, though these machines are expensive to purchase and operate.  Plastic filament printers at the time supported layer heights of 0.1-0.2mm, while resin printers produced layers at 0.03mm, resulting in smooth, accurate parts.  Our latest plastic filament printer, the Prusa i3 MK3, supports layer heights of 0.05mm, approaching resin quality with the affordability and diversity of plastic based material.

Tim, one of our students, has faith in our filament based 3D printers.  He makes board games and intricate puzzle boxes.  His work is amazing and amazingly tiny!  Lately, Tim is using our original Makerbot (our first printer, donated by the Romich Foundation) and Prusa printers to create figurines for a 1990’s board game called Warhammer 40K.

The purple tanks were printed at 0.2mm with the Makerbot, while the miniscule soldiers were printed at 0.05mm on the Prusa.  Just how tiny are these soldiers?  We used a dime for comparison:

Currently, Tim is fabricating a board game called Pai Sho, taken from a television anime series Avatar: The Last Airbender.  We are excited to see the results of his work in the coming weeks!


Once a year, Fairless Middle School offers Career Day where community members do a “show and tell” to talk about their careers to students.  Staff members Erika Stafford and I discussed 3D printing and careers in engineering during this event.  We presented to six classes sessions of students which made for a long but exciting day.  Our sessions were so popular that teachers normally on break spent the time in our classroom instead!

Many thanks to the Romich Foundation for our portable 3D printer which has been shown to many schools, organizations, and businesses.  It printed like a champ all day!  We had many excited kids, many of whom asked countless questions.

If you know of any organizations, schools, or business who would like to experience 3D printing and how Wayne College can help them, please let me know.  We are always willing to make road trips if there is interest and the food is good.


Stay tuned for more interesting stories in the coming week!  Our engineering students have begun building and competing LEGO Mindstorms robots, culminating in our [in]famous Battle Bots tournament at the end of the semester.


Until next week,



Like big things?  Check-out the world’s first 3D printed ship propeller:

…and the world’s largest construction 3D printer:


Speaking of Tim’s puzzle boxes, you can make your own here:

Want to make your own board game?


You can build a 3D printer from a kit with  Schantz MakerSpace workshops.  Want to learn what you can do with an Arduino microcontroller?  There’s a workshop for that, too.  Find out more at:


We offer a free “listserv” that allows to you ask questions to members in the makerspace. It’s great for sharing ideas, forming friendships, and helping & advising each other. To join, send an email to with

“SUBSCRIBE MAKERSPACE-GROUP” in the subject line.