A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

3D printing: SRJC propels into the future with new tech equipment

Today’s 3D printers are capable of producing complex shapes that are both stylized and functional, such as simple machines.

One of the most exciting technologies being developed today is 3D printing.

This fall, SRJC introduced a new computer studies class titled CS 78.1 for students interested in exploring this new field. Donald Laird, SRJC computer studies department chair, is currently teaching the course. It focuses on introducing students to the process of 3D printing and learning how to use this new technology.

“It’s a skill that is showing up in many industries, so I thought it was something we needed to make available to students,” Laird said.

Some of the industries that use 3D printing include architecture and construction modeling, medical device design, and manufacturing. Students also explore career options as part of the class.

The college currently owns 11 3D printers, the most in Sonoma County, ranging from low-end printers that run a few hundred dollars to high-end printers costing upwards of $3,000.

To ensure students have a better chance getting jobs in the workforce with 3D printers, Laird wanted them exposed to as many different types of machines as possible.

“Rather than get all of one type of printer, I wanted a variety because the technology changes so fast,” he said.

Laird keeps up with the software and makes changes to ensure the technology is up to date. Many of the printers are open source, which allow Laird to take them apart and put them back together.

The class introduces students to the concept of 3D and learning how to work in and think in 3D. One of the projects coming up for students involves making a lego block with their own name on it. The test will be whether or not the blocks interlock with one another.

With 3D printing, Laird feels the possibilities are endless. “Not everybody gets to play with a real fossil skull. I get to print my own,” he said.

As technology evolves, more and more 3D printers are becoming available to the public. Mattel, a toy company, is even coming out with a 3D printer for kids next year.

“For me, being able to take designs already existing and modify them to come up with a tangible result is really really cool,” Laird said.

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