December 14 we went to the College of Engineering Design Lab for a demonstration of their 3D printer, 3D scanner and CNC Mill & Lathe. Steve Struckman was our amazing tour guide. He showed us all three machines as well as finished products from all three (with the scanner the finished product is a computer file).
There's a piece of sandstone inside the 3D scanner (bottom left). The computer screen shows the rendered file. The information in the file can then be entered into the 3D printer.
That's a model of a claw from the Iowa Giant Sloth sitting on top of the printer. Most of the lab's work is for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, but they do projects for any department and the public can use the printer as well ($8/cubic inch).
Samples of things the printer can make. It made the wheels for a College of Engineering student's senior design project while we were there. It took about 40 minutes to make the wheels. Each layer is 1/10,000 of an inch thick. Imagine how many layers are in the prosthesis or back muscle! The layers are made of plastic that is melted (think of a glue gun) and sprayed in place. The cartridges look quite a bit like regular printer cartridges. The printer we saw can only do one colour at a time. They can change cartridges part way through a project to create multicoloured layers (example at bottom of post).
When they come out of the printer, pieces are given a special hot bath to remove any of the support plastic. Here is the body of the car taking its bath.
Sometimes the object that comes out of the 3D printer is used to determine how to make something out of a different material. The computer file can be used to make the object with the CNC Mill & Lathe out of metal or other plastics.