3D printing at Yale University

Writing for the New Haven Register, Jim Shelton describes 3D printers as “magic boxes” fueled by sheer ingenuity. So it comes as little surprise that at Yale University, where students, faculty and researchers are flocking to the technology by the hundreds, 3D printers are filtering into nearly every discipline on campus.

According to Shelton, the devices are accelerating innovation, enhancing design projects and sparking inspiration for engineers, medical researchers, architects and biologists.

“In the past year, we have 3D-printed everything from scientific research tools to key chains, ancient Egyptian artifacts to trombone mouthpieces, race car parts to human tumors,” Joseph Zinter, assistant director of Yale’s Center for Engineering Innovation and Design (CEID), told the New Haven Register. “People are still trying to figure out where this is going to go. We’re at a very exciting time. This gives students the ability to create things their hands aren’t able to create. That’s the leverage we’re talking about here.”

Indeed, CEID has successfully taught more than 550 students and faculty how to use the printers. Training sessions are scheduled every week and Zinter expects at least 10 percent of Yale’s undergraduates to go hands-on with the 3D printers over the next few months.

“People are still trying to figure out where this is going to go. We’re at a very exciting time. This gives students the ability to create things their hands aren’t able to create,” he explained. “That’s the leverage we’re talking about here. You’re taking ideas and turning them into physical objects. We’ve become a hub for people to bring these projects.”

To be sure, 3D printers are gaining positive traction among faculty, researchers and medical staff across campus.

Mark Michalski, a radiology resident at Yale-New Haven Hospital, told the New Haven Register he has printed 3D versions of human bones and even a kneecap surrounded by a tumor. The models are particularly useful in helping patients visualize an ailment or a medical procedure. Similarly, Gordon Shepherd, who teaches neurobiology at Yale’s School of Medicine, worked with CEID to create a model of a neuron and plans on printing models depicting multiple neurons in the future.

Meanwhile, Roman Kuc, who teaches electrical engineering at Yale, noted that flexibility to experiment in an inexpensive way helps promote innovation.

“For people like me, 3D printing is ideal. You can try out many ideas and converge on what works,” he added.

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, Atmel AVR XMEGA and megaAVR MCUs can be found in the majority of 3D printers on the market, including the popular MakerBot and RepRap. It should also be noted that the lucrative 3D printing space is set for “explosive growth” in 2014 and 2015. Indeed, Gartner analysts expect worldwide shipments of 3D printers to increase by 75 percent in 2014, followed by a near doubling of unit shipments in 2015.

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