Learning to Print in Three Dimensions

A series of wrenches 3D printed by Nathan Hom, a junior management engineer for manufacturing major and OPIM Innovate Lab specialist on April 9, 2018. (Garrett Spahn/UConn Photo)
A series of fully functional wrenches 3-D printed by Nathan Hom '19 (ENG/BUS), a lab specialist in the OPIM Innovate Lab. At this walk-in lab, students can learn from scratch how to take an idea from concept to three-dimensional reality. (Garrett Spahn '18 (CLAS)/UConn Photo)

3-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a process of making three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file. In this additive process, an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until it is completed.

The technology is rapidly gaining hold in the manufacturing industry, where manufacturers are able to print parts at a fraction of the cost of traditional methods. It is also now becoming more affordable for consumers and small businesses, and UConn students have a variety of opportunities to learn how to use the equipment, ranging from in-class projects to walk-in labs and maker spaces where they can experiment and practice.

One of these walk-in labs, located in the School of Business, is the OPIM Innovate Lab, where students can learn the basics of how an idea can go from concept to reality through 3-D printing from a digital file in a matter of hours. As part of the walk-in service provided by OPIM Innovate, ‘tech kits’ are available at three different levels of difficulty, according to the users’ level of experience with the technology.

Student photographer Garrett Spahn ’18 (CLAS) stopped by the lab recently.  Here’s what he found.