Cloverleaf High School has a new three-dimensional printer –
thanks to an Experience-Based Learning Grant from the Westfield Insurance
Foundation – and community members are invited to come in and give it a try.
In 3D printing, plastic is heated and put down in precise
layers to build a pre-programmed design. The plastic comes in spools that look
a bit like string trimmer line. Multiple colors are available.
“It’s sort of like a high-tech glue gun,” said science teacher Jim Vaughn.
Almost any small plastic part can be created or replicated
by the printer. To make an object, a software program called a “slicer”
translates a 3D model of the item into computer programming code that tells the
printer where to lay down the plastic. Relatively large objects can take up to
24 hours to print.
The Cloverleaf 3D printer uses polylactic acid plastic,
derived from renewable resources like cornstarch or sugar cane. Printed objects
are strong, but not flexible, and can be easily sanded and painted. Although it
is nontoxic , the plastic is not recommended for food-related use. Since it’s biodegradable
and breaks down over time, the plastic potentially could leach into food.
The printer primarily is used by Vaughn’s robotics class to build custom parts. He recommends visiting www.thingiverse.com to see examples of what the printer can do. Projects on the site include logos, containers, cases, faceplates, knobs, game pieces, parts for toys, charging stands for electronics, and more.
Community members who wish to make use of the printer have
several options, Vaughn said. If they have a Computer-Aided Design or CAD
drawing of the object to be printed, that’s all that’s needed to get started.
Or, bring in an item to be duplicated and students can create the CAD drawing
from scratch. Items also can be scanned using a 3D scanner.
Even if all you have is an idea, by all means bring it in,
Vaughn said, and students can help bring it to life.
“We are open to working in whatever way fits best,” he added. “This is an out-of-the-box-thinking group.”
Prior to printing, Vaughn’s students will provide a cost
estimate based on the amount of design time, print time and plastic the
proposed project would require. The money goes right back into maintaining the
printer and eventually expanding its capabilities.
To learn more, contact Vaughn at Jim.Vaughn@cloverleaflocal.org or call 330-948-2500, ext. 30158.