Learning Factory installs new advanced 3-D printer

Dana Marsh
September 23, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The College of Engineering's Learning Factory at Penn State has acquired a new 3-D printer, the Objet260 Connex, which can print up to 14 material properties into one part. This printer is the only one of its kind at the University Park campus.

The Objet260 Connex will be used by students working on projects in the Bernard M. Gordon Learning Factory, which range from the first-year Introduction to Engineering Design to the capstone design class for seniors.

"Prototypes that students build using this technology have a wide range of applications, including medical devices and consumer products," said Mary Frecker, director of the Learning Factory and professor of mechanical engineering. "They will be able to make parts with both flexible and stiff materials in a single build, which is a unique capability on our campus."

Students build their prototypes using computer-aided design software then upload their designs into the printer's software where it is translated into the 3-D element built by the printer. During design, students choose what type of materials -- from very rigid to quite malleable materials -- are best suited for the final prototype based on the ultimate use of the piece.

"A lot of times whenever a student is designing a project, it's both easier and cheaper to produce parts with the printer," said Bill Genet, Learning Factory supervisor. "They get multiple revisions until they come up with a useful design they like and that the sponsor likes."

The purchase of the 3-D printer was made possible through Richard and Marion Leonhard Endowment to Support Entrepreneurship and Manufacturing, with contributions from the Naren and Judith Gursahaney Excellence Fund in Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, the industrial and manufacturing engineering department and the Applied Research Laboratory.

The Learning Factory is a state-of-the-art facility that supports the capstone design program at the College of Engineering. The 6,500-square-foot facility sees continuous usage throughout the year by more than 1,000 students that take courses ranging from Introduction to Engineering Design (first-year) to capstone design (senior) and anything in between that requires access to hands-on manufacturing facilities and space.

The Learning Factory also provides a University-industry partnership where student design projects benefit industrial clients and industrial sponsors interact with students and faculty to help educate world-class engineers and make a significant difference in engineering education at Penn State. Its mission is to help bring the real world into the classroom by providing engineering students with practical hands-on experience through industry-sponsored and client-based capstone design projects.

During the 2012-13 academic year, the Learning Factory completed a record 174 projects for nearly 100 different sponsors with more than 750 engineering students at University Park participating.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 26, 2013