NTID Students Construct 3D Printers ‘From the Ground Up’

Boxfuls of nuts, bolts and wires provided the inspiration for an Imagine RIT exhibit created by a class of NTID students. “Making 3D Printers to Learn New Technology” will be featured at the May 2 festival to show visitors how 3D printers are built from scratch using logic, programming knowledge, troubleshooting skills—and plenty of patience.

The students, who are enrolled in an elective course in the information and computing studies program, will also produce small souvenirs for visitors using the four printers they’ve built from the ground up.

“The printers don’t come with instructions, so this project is purely research based,” said Matthew Ward, a Center for Multidisciplinary Studies student from Newark, Del. “We’re working with very complicated wiring—always plugging and unplugging. We have researched which software programs are the best for print running and we work on programming the code. When an error message comes up, we fix it. It’s all about experimentation, troubleshooting. Sometimes, it’s frustrating, but moving past that is all part of the process.”

Tom Simpson, a faculty member in the information and computing studies program, believes the project has inspired them to believe that they can do anything. “As the students built the printers, they learned about science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics,” he said. “This project required lots of concentration and patience on their part. They’re excited to talk with the visitors about the whole process.”

Lance Ward, an applied computer technology major from Monroe, N.H., is looking forward to using what he’s learned in a future career. “This experience has been just as valuable as co-op or internship. For the past 11 weeks have really been immersed in writing code, upgrading programs. Actually seeing the results and being able to show them to the Imagine RIT visitors will make it all worthwhile.”