Ramapo’s 3D printers spark creativity in students

Photo courtesy of Waag, Flickr

The idea of a 3D printer is fascinating, and it has brought Ramapo's students artistic avenues and intrigue in the years the college has had them.

3D printers are generally accepted as having been invented in the late 1980s and becoming readily available to the public, albeit at expensive prices, in the late 2000s. Ramapo College has several of them, designated for use by cost and use: some are free, some are available at a sliding scale of cost and some are restricted use. 

There are four 3D printers available to all students for use, one in the Anisfield School of Business and three in the Berrie Center.

Anisfield’s 3D printer, located at ASB-223 in the Instructional Design Center (IDC), is free to use and is accessible for students Monday to Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The printer can print anything made in the program Tinkercad, though its size limit is seven inches long, six inches wide and nine inches high. 

There are no further restrictions besides that the student has to stay in the room due to fire safety rules. The printer and IDC are directed by Ray Fallon.

“I think they’re a helpful resource, they can be a creative outlet, and they can let you do cool things,'' said Biplab Thapa Magar, an IDC assistant.

Located at BC-153 are three 3D printers, similar to that in the ASB. These printers are not free, but are not expensive. They are priced by how long the object takes to print, and are available to students for a six-hour block each Wednesday. These printers are overseen by Ann LePore, the college’s ‘3D printer expert.’

“The idea that you can make a fairly complex object, rather simply, I think that’s very appealing,” LePore said. 

She recounted an instance where she moved into an old house, which had a series of old locks on its doors which she didn’t have the keys to, and could have trapped her children behind a sealed door. Instead of calling a locksmith, LePore 3D printed a set of keys for the locks.

“It was just like a basic, easy thing to do, you know to serve a purpose,” she said.

Anyone interested in learning how a 3D printer works can stop by LePore’s office, BC-147, or can contact her at alepore@ramapo.edu.

This sort of technology is still very experimental, yet the idea of being able to create anything is amazing. 

However, while the 3D printer was the subject of sci-fi stories for years, now that it’s readily available and fairly easy to use, the technology isn’t being used for as much as it could be used for. 

While automation is efficient, simply building manually leads to skilled workers and with it a thriving industry, though it isn’t as quick, often taking training. There will always be markets for both.