Students Utilize 3D Printer in OFTC’s Machine Tool Program
Machine Tool Technology students at Oconee Fall Line Technical College (OFTC) gain first-hand experience with top-of-the-line technology thanks to the College’s investment in a new 3D printer.
The 3D printer works much like a traditional desktop printer. But instead of using ink and paper it prints using material and a 3D file. “It does this by getting the material hot enough to be pliable and lays the material down layer by layer until the 3D part is achieved,” shared OFTC Machine Tool Technology instructor, Jeff Frady.
Varying in accepted material – from plastic to concrete to various steels – this printer accepts eight different materials of varying color.
While various industries like construction and the medical field utilize 3D printing, exposure to the process will give students an added skill to tout when they enter the workforce. “At the very least it opens their minds to new ways of doing things and to new ideas, and keeps them up to date on new technology,” Frady said.
Students in OFTC’s program are learning how to use a Computer Aided Design (CAD) program called Mastercam to draft the desired 3D part. Then, utilizing a 3D printing software called Grab Print, they learn to manipulate the file until they get the desired part.
“They’re also learning basic operations of the machine,” Frady shared, “so they’ll know how to set it up, put the build trays in, change the material used, and perform basic maintenance like changing the printer heads and calibrating new ones.”
Several local companies utilize 3D printers for various things, Frady added, emphasizing the immediate industry applications for his students. “One company uses 3D printing for rapid prototypes and another one for replacement parts.”
By exposing students to the CAD software and how to operate a 3D printer, OFTC sets their students up for success when they enter their careers in industry, Frady said.
“Having the ability to draw the parts is half the battle in programming any machine, so having the extra time using the CAD system will help our students with any programming they’ll do in the future even if it’s not with a 3D printer,” he said.
“And the experience of using a 3D printer while in OFTC’s Machine Tool Program, in addition to the knowledge of what one can do, will put students who graduate from our program above most because very few people even have the opportunity to use one before entering an industry setting,” he added.