Boston Globe: Northeastern’s 3-D printing lab is for all to use
The Boston Globe - 06/10/2013
Along with researching papers or studying for exams, Northeastern University students will soon be able to go to the library and create their own iPhone cases or dorm room lamps.
The school is opening a 3-D printing lab this fall within its library to give all students access to this trendy manufacturing technology, which has been tucked away in engineering and design labs.
“This is a technology that’s moving out there,” said Stephen W. Director, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Northeastern.
The ongoing evolution of 3-D printers — they are becoming smaller, cheaper, and easier to use — has prompted universities, high schools, and local governments to add these devices as their libraries push into the digital age.
The modern library, Director said, is “not just a place where you store books, and information doesn’t just come in 2-D physical forms. Information comes in all sorts of forms. Now, it’s in 3-D.”
3-D printing is really more of a manufacturing operation than traditional printing. Using special software, professionals and tinkerers alike can design objects or random shapes, and the printer creates three-dimensional versions of them by extruding successive layers of plastic filament.
Northeastern’s lab will be part of the school’s newly opened Digital Media Commons at Snell Library. The dozen or so machines will include full-size and smaller desktop printers, 3-D scanners, and laser cutters, from manufacturers such as MakerBot Industries LLC, whose Replicator 2 printer costs about $2,000.
Many universities are ordering them, said Jenifer Howard, a spokeswoman for New York-based MakerBot. Overall demand for the printers has been so high that MakerBot opened a second factory last week. So far, it has sold more than 20,000 MakerBots, which are small enough to sit on a desk.