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2016 August 18 - 10:29 am

3-D Printing Lab Makes Technology Accessible

South Carolina Technical College Opens Lab to Public

FLORENCE, S.C. (AP) — The space is what you make it. Or rather, what you make in it.

The building possibilities are numerous in the new Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology (SiMT) Center Makerspace, located in the Gould Business Incubator at Florence- Darlington Technical College.

The Makerspace is a 3-D printing lab that is open to the public to explore and create. Managing director Ashley Dingle said the cost to use the lab is set up similar to the pricing for a gym membership.

“People can come in here for $25 a month, $15 for students, so it is very reasonable,” Dingle said. “It is just like a gym; all of the machines don’t have to be in use but, if you want to, you can use them all, however you want.”

Though the technology is still relatively new, Dingle said even people who have never used it before can do so easily.

“You bring your own flash drive and we have locker space in the hallway where they can keep their stuff,” Dingle said. “If you are not here at the end of your build, we can pop it off and store it for you safely. You can even run projects overnight; some of these builds take 13 hours to print, as big as they are. It is super easy. The machines can be intimidating, but it is super easy.”

Projects can be as simple or as complicated as the builder wants and can be individualized to suit their needs.

“I think this would be cool for someone who wants to make their own jewelry,” Dingle said. “You can use it for medical applications, like prosthetics. They are printing food in Germany. They are printing special pills for epileptics, because they can’t swallow. The pill is put on their tongue, and it dissolves.”

Getting a build started is as straightforward as inputting your design, inserting the building material and hitting go.

“You make whatever you want using the program,” Dingle said. “You pop your flash drive in, pick out what color you want and load the cartridge. It will suck the filament up like a hot glue gun. It will heat the material up and build layer by layer. There are fans running all the time to harden it as it grows. You can do something that is up to 10 inches in width. You don’t have to use the big bulky machine to build one thing; you can print multiples of something at the same time.”

Though there are many different types of filament, including wood and metal, the Makerspace uses a plastic filament that is cornstarch based and environmentally friendly.

“It’s amazing,” Dingle said. “What you can do with 3-D printing will blow your mind. If you have the vision for this space, you can make it anything you want, and that is the beauty of it. It seems like the younger the group that visits, the more excited they are.”

Information from: Morning News, http://www.scnow.com

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