One thing is certain. 3D printing will change our world. The designers of the future are well advised to get familiar with this technology. 3D printing removes any restrictions that traditional manufacturing processes impose on designs, whilst also bringing with it some new restrictions. These benefits and limitations are best experienced by working with 3D printers oneself. In several student projects for the bachelor and master studies in mechanical engineering and offshore technology, the Kiel University of Applied Sciences uses devices from German RepRap, including recently the x350PRO. The university in the capital city of the state of Schleswig-Holstein has been using the 3D printing process in teaching since 1999. It first of all purchased a laser sintering device, and then in 2010 bought from German RepRap its first 3D printer, which operates using the FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) process. The possibilities of 3D printing were explored as part of project and final dissertation work using the printer which was bought in kit form. In the subsequent winter terms of 2011/12 and 2012/13, this experience was gathered in student workshops in which students assembled other kits from German RepRap over seven to ten days and put them into operation. The workshop also compared the print results with the industry standard for 3D printing technology. The current training concept is designed to explain to the Kiel university students the application area and the current state of R&D of the typical generative manufacturing processes on the market. The teachers consider it important here to convey know-how about various process-specific fundamentals and requirements. Students are required to recognize and understand the importance of design guidelines for creating components. The lecturers provide a lot of self study material for this, which also involves hands-on work with the 3Dprinter.
Figure 1: Dipl.-Ing. Thomas Abraham with students of the “3D Printing - Additive Manufacturing” module. At the center of the picture on the x350 PRO are the 3D printed lamps developed by the students.
The “3D Printing - Additive Manufacturing” module is at the center of this. The 3D printer is the central training system, which is used independently by students for them to gain experience. Furthermore, the “Introduction to Robotics” (bachelor) and “Robotic Applications” (master) modules use gripper jaws, which are produced by the 3D printer. The CAD data generated by the students is converted here into function models. The university has now added x350 from German RepRap to its equipment in the 3D printing laboratory. Besides its openness, the key factor for choosing this printer was the 350 x 200 x 210 millimeter geometry of the build envelope, which is ideal for taking the majority of components manufactured in the institute. FFF technology offers a significant benefit for teaching: The PLA material used, which also comes from GRR, is inexpensive and is not a great burden on the limited budget of the laboratory. With this material students can discover the basic problems involved in using this technology, and the university allows virtually any idea to be followed up, without breaking the laboratory budget. This material is also particularly printer friendly, and the rigidity of the models and components is completely sufficient for typical applications.
Figure 2: Robot gripper jaws - two students from Kiel university check the interaction between the device they printed themselves and the gripper jaws.
Dipl.-Ing. Thomas Abraham from the Institute for Production Technology sums up the benefits of collaborating with German RepRap: “We place a great deal of importance on close contact with the system manufacturer. The support, forum and documentation provided by German RepRap are all consistent. The 3D printer system is open and the range of different materials that can be used is unlimited. The appropriate parameters can be adjusted without additional costs. Finally, the GRR systems allow us to integrate or link our own applications in the system. This makes the implementation of research papers and dissertations for the requirements of engineering straightforward and cost effective.” Florian Bautz, CEO of German RepRap GmbH, is delighted with the successful collaboration with the Kiel University of Applied Sciences which has so far lasted for six years: “We struck up a good partnership with the Kiel University of Applied Sciences from the very beginning. We are very proud of the close collaboration and look forward to more joint projects.”