There is a third industrial revolution happening right now. It’s 3D printing and it’s transforming virtually every industry right before our eyes, from architecture to automotive to fashion, jewelry, eyewear, even food.
“Students need to know there is a paradigm shift that’s changing how we relate to things, art, objects, even to nature, and that it offers an incredible opportunity to shape the world through their creative endeavors,” said Professional Technician Shingo Furukawa, who is leading the efforts to create 3D digital fabrication studios at the CVPA Star Store. “CVPA is producing the next generation of artists and makers. It is extremely important to expose students to the available options.”
The Innovation Learning Collaborative
To train students in the job skills they’ll need, the Innovation Learning Collaborative (ILC) at the Star Store campus opened in September 2015. The ILC builds on the Hall-Hildreth IDEAStudio on the main campus, which has high-quality equipment and initiated 3D digital processes at UMass Dartmouth in Fall 2013. The IDEAStudio primarily serves students from Engineering and CVPA who want to produce 3D prototypes.
“I felt it was important to give support for setting up a second facility at the Star Store since many studios here emphasize fabricating with materials such as wood, metal, and ceramics,” said Artisanry Professor Susan Hamlet. Last August, she donated $11,000 to the ILC in her mother’s name, Marion Hamlet. With the funds, CVPA purchased two laser-cutting machines and three 3D printers.
“The equipment I’ve donated to the ILC is modest with only small-scale capabilities,” said Hamlet, “yet this does provide an initial learning experience for 3D digital design and being able to see results produced directly here.”
From sketchpad to table
Students see their production results in Furukawa’s Digital Fabrication class. They learn modeling and making in three dimensions, design projects using the industry standard Rhinoceros modeling software, and learn basic techniques in Computer-Aided-Design (CAD) and Computer-Aided-Manufacturing (CAM).
In a slightly advanced CAD class this semester, students focus on the translation from the CAD model in the computer to an actual product that uses the 3D printers. At its most fundamental level, it’s a drawing class, as students start their project from a sketch. On another level, it’s a production class, and students manufacture their artwork, such as custom-designed flatware.
In a special projects class, a new 4’ x 8’ CNC router—a cutting machine controlled by computer— was used to generate the wood parts of six hand-weaving looms for the Weaving with Light exhibit selected for the SOFA CHICAGO Expo this past Fall. The router was co-funded by the College and Campus Master Planning/Capital Projects.
“Almost all the components in this installation were designed and mapped out on the computer using CAD software, and cut using the CNC router,” said Furukawa. “We use the new digital fabrication equipment as an extension of whatever other tools are already available, while teaching students different ways to approach design, production, and new possibilities. We encourage students to try new things out, fail, learn, and apply what they’ve learned. We encourage them to come and propose special projects that they couldn’t quite manage before without those tools.”
Absolutely essential technology
While Hamlet believes that continuing to make by hand is still significant and must continue, especially as students are losing contact with material ‘touch,’ she said the 3D digital technology fills many gaps.
“It gives them the tools for making prototypes, and developing thinking for connecting with industry toward employment ahead. It’s the bridge between handmade, hand-designed, and machine-made with potential for industrial applications.”