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Donation allows FASTEnER Lab to get new 3D printer

ISSUED: 25 February 2019
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens

SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — Shepherd University’s Fine Art, Science, Technology, Engineering, Educational Resource Lab (FASTEnER Lab) has expanded its capabilities thanks to a new stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer that was purchased with a $5,000 donation from an anonymous donor. Kay Dartt, 3D fabrication manager, said the SLA printing process uses a laser to cure photo-sensitive polymers.

“That laser allows us to get fine, fine detail—almost up to a tenth of a millimeter,” Dartt said “It’s really highly capable, can print in a variety of different materials, and can be used to create many different types of objects.”

Printing with the new equipment is a three-step process. Once the printer creates an object, that object goes through a wash station and then to a cure oven. Dartt said the FASTEnER Lab’s newest printer offers students more capability for creating parts for research, engineering, and art projects.

“The printer is really good at making organic forms in fine detail,” Dartt said. “For example, with engineering you might need a small, precise part. The printer is good at that. It’s used in fine art to make jewelry. It’s used in dentistry for making jigs so that they fit snugly around a person’s tooth or gums. It’s very versatile and the sky’s the limit.

Dartt said the printer is a great addition that has allowed the FASTEnER Lab to expand its capabilities and offer opportunities for faculty and students across campus. Christian Benefiel, associate professor of art, is incorporating use of the new printer into his sculpture classes to make wax molds for foundry work.

“This allows us to design digitally and then print directly in a pattern wax, which can then be cast or applied to any number of different metals, or to materials like glass,” Benefiel said.

Benefiel is also using the printer for a project he’s working on with the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Maryland. The museum operates a wooden boat shop that does new construction and restores historical boats and ships.

“Part of that restoration is reproducing parts that would have been cast predominately in bronze for boats which are more than 100 years old and, in some cases, even older,” Benefiel said. “For a lot of the things I do with the museum, I’m making one or two copies of components. Modeling them in 3D and having this high-resolution print allows us to work quickly and to modify scale of the patterns to accommodate for things like metal shrinkage and other metallurgical properties associated with the process of foundry work.”

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