One year ago, the State University of New York at New Paltz (SUNY New Paltz) became the first university in the U.S. to open a MakerBot Innovation Center. A MakerBot Innovation Center is a large-scale installation of MakerBot Replicator 3D printers and supporting devices that empowers organizations and schools to innovate faster, increase collaboration and compete more effectively. Since SUNY New Paltz opened its MakerBot Innovation Center in February 2014, the university has used it to help establish the Hudson Valley Advanced Manufacturing Center (HVAMC) as a premiere hub for advanced manufacturing technology in the Hudson Valley, garnering industry interest and securing funding for further expansion. The SUNY New Paltz MakerBot Innovation Center is celebrating its one-year anniversary as part of the HVAMC.
According to Donald Christian, president of SUNY New Paltz, the MakerBot Innovation Center helped jumpstart SUNY New Paltz’s 3D printing initiative, which has enjoyed tremendous interest from students, faculty and the surrounding business community. With the MakerBot Innovation Center, the university quickly forged public-private partnerships with industry leaders to create a vibrant innovation hub that serves both students and the local business community in unprecedented ways. Among many milestones, SUNY New Paltz was awarded a $10 million NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant by Governor Andrew Cuomo in the fall of 2014 to establish an Engineering Innovation Hub and secured $850,000 in capital funding for a new 3D printing laboratory.
“The MakerBot Innovation Center has been hugely successful here at SUNY New Paltz, and the interest from both students and industry has exceeded even our wildest expectations,” said Dan Freedman, dean of the School of Science and Engineering. “MakerBot put us on the map as an innovation leader. We’ve seen huge interest from companies looking for talent with additive manufacturing experience, and the number of inquiries we get from local business and industry grows daily. Students who learn about 3D printing at SUNY New Paltz will have a significant competitive advantage when they start looking for jobs after they graduate.”
At its School of Science and Engineering, SUNY New Paltz has developed a 3D printing curriculum as part of its Digital Design and Fabrication (DDF) class. This class brings together art and engineering majors to collaborate with local entrepreneurs and businesses on Real-Time Prototyping™, model making and small-scale creative and manufacturing projects. The MakerBot Innovation Center, part of the HVAMC, is already providing digital design and fabrication expertise to about 50 businesses and entrepreneurs throughout the region.
“We’re really proud of the success that SUNY New Paltz has had with its MakerBot Innovation Center in just one year and how they were able to use 3D printing to foster science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education,” said Jenny Lawton, CEO of MakerBot. “The interest from companies that are looking to hire talent with additive manufacturing experience is increasing significantly. SUNY New Paltz has found a unique way of satisfying that demand by bringing together art and engineering students with local businesses through 3D printing. The results are inspiring, and we can’t wait to see what they will be able to achieve in the future.”
The MakerBot Innovation Center has also helped SUNY New Paltz engage the local community and educate the public about the possibilities of 3D printing. Workshops for K-12 educators have attracted a variety of teachers, from art to science, who have an interest in digital design and fabrication and in using these new technologies in the classroom. SUNY New Paltz also offers a two-semester course in digital design and fabrication to nondegree students from the community.
Innovative 3D printing projects that have come out of the MakerBot Innovation Center at SUNY New Paltz range from prosthetics to a motorcycle safety product to an industrial venting system. One of the outstanding projects completed this past year is a 3D printed “robohand” that enables a six-year-old boy without any fingers on his left hand to grasp objects. Another is the Life Grip, a motorcycle grip that allows drivers to actuate the horn without taking their eyes off the road. The inventor, Lewis Donnelly, prototyped the Life Grip on a MakerBot Replicator 2X Experimental 3D Printer. During the development process, Lewis discovered that changing the level of infill of the 3D print had an effect on the level of vibration that is transmitted through the grip; as a result, he was able to make the grip safer by adjusting it for different levels of fatigue. This discovery was possible only because the rapid nature of 3D printing allowed him to quickly make and test multiple iterations of his product. Graduate student Katherine Wilson paid $75 to make a lamp housing on an industrial 3D printer before coming to SUNY New Paltz. On a MakerBot Replicator 3D Printer, the same part cost $0.50 and took two hours.
MakerBot Innovation Centers are designed to be large-scale 3D printing solutions for universities, companies and other organizations, built in partnership with MakerBot and its knowledgeable engineering, consulting and training teams. MakerBot Innovation Centers are intended to increase innovation and catalyze new ideas and growth. At a university, a MakerBot Innovation Center can be open to the student body, and often the community, as a destination for fostering innovation and making things. At a business, a MakerBot Innovation Center can be a hub for design, product development, rapid prototyping and even small-scale manufacturing. In its one year of use, the MakerBot Innovation Center at SUNY New Paltz, as Freedman noted, has met and exceeded the university’s expectations.