A dozen or so machines now quietly hum in the recently opened Digital Commons, including full-size and smaller desktop printers, as well as 3D scanners and laser cutters. A MakerBot Replicator 2, which rings in at more than $2,000, can now be accessed by anyone with a valid Northeastern ID.
“The most exciting thing about this lab is access,” said Mark Sivak, an assistant academic specialist at Northeastern, said in an email to BostInno. “Students from every college and program in the university — as well as alumni in the future — will have access to the studio, not just design or engineering or other disciplines that more commonly use this technology.”
Sivak and Stone helped develop the studio, alongside Richard Ranky, a 2012 graduate of Northeastern’s mechanical engineering doctoral program and the co-founder of 3-Spark, a university spin-off creating smarter 3D printed parts.
Ranky echoed Sivak’s sentiments, acknowledging the breadth of talent at Northeastern. “We want to put it to the best use,” he said, adding they want to start pumping research and IP out of the studio. Considering students have already started trickling in, volunteering to teach others how to use GrabCAD or other 3D printing tools, according to Ranky, that hope is expected to become a swift reality.
Stone, co-founder of 3D design mobile app Mecube, has been working on 3D printing at Northeastern since 2008. During that period of time, he helped launch the ANA Project, an interactive website that transforms users’ typed alphanumeric text into 3D printable objects.
ANA is currently available for use at the 3D printing studio. In a previous interview, Stone described the project as “an enticer” for students, because it gives them the opportunity to design objects from their dorm room, and later pick them up in the lab.
“If you give all of the students at Northeastern the ability to make a 3D print, they arrive on the other side of the veil,” said Stone, referencing the mystery behind what has swiftly evolved into a “trendy” piece of manufacturing technology — technology five students have already used to build a quadcopter drone.
Kevin Barnaby, Emile Bourgeois, Dan Congdon, Carl Fiester and Cory Martin put their research on display Thursday night. The team is working to build a drone capable of assisting forensic architectural engineers by snapping thermal images.
Jaws slowly started dropping as the students were presenting, but Sivak admitted he hopes that’s only the beginning.
“I hope a lot of stuff that I can’t imagine,” Sivak said, in response to what he dreams will come out of the new studio. “Since we are hoping to engage many populations who do not use the technology now, I think they will bring a fresh perspective and new potential applications.”
From there, the options are endless.
“We hope to foster an atmosphere of creativity and show that everyone can be a designer and tinkerer,” Sivak added. “Couple that goal with the frankly impressive buffet of technology the studio has, and there is an exciting potential for awesome projects.”
For a closer look inside the 3D printing studio, check out the photos below.
Featured Photo Courtesy of Brooks Canaday/Northeastern