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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Startup Aggieland technologically advances with the installment of 3D printers

A+3-foot+key+with+the+Texas+A%26amp%3BM+seal+that+was+printed+using+the+EICs+Polyjet+printer.
Photo by Courtesy

A 3-foot key with the Texas A&M seal that was printed using the EIC’s Polyjet printer.

Aggie entrepreneurs can see and hold their inventions now that Startup Aggieland has installed 3D printers at their facility.
Startup Aggieland is open to students, staff, faculty, former students and others who qualify by application, which can be found on the program website, www.startupaggieland.com, according to Charles Hinton, Co-Manager of Startup Aggieland and Manager of the Discovery Lab.
Hinton said he researched with local users of 3D printers to see with which model to pursue, and decided to go with the same model that is used in the architecture and engineering departments at A&M. Benefits follow significantly with the usage of these 3D printers, according to Hinton, and thus will broaden the abilities of interested entrepreneurial students.
“We came to the conclusion this summer that when students are in the process of inventing something that they think is viable, they need a way to build a prototype,” Hinton said. “So this is a way to help a student build a prototype. The benefits are that we can take an idea and actually make a 3D model of it so that we can touch it and feel it and see if it is viable.”
Hinton said any student, regardless of their major, who is wanting to build a gadget from their imagination is welcome to use the SOLIDWORKS software to draw their idea and bring it to Startup Aggieland for printing.
Jim Wilson, the Director of the Engineering Innovation Center (EIC) at A&M, manages the daily activities of EIC, and has been working with 3D printers since 1996.
“3D printers are the cornerstone of ‘Additive Manufacturing,’ a method of adding material in a controlled manner to build up the substance of a part,” Wilson said. “3D printers use carefully designed raw materials to manufacture 3D versions of a drawn or rendered part. They can be desktop sized or as large as an office. They provide an amazing physical representation of what was once an electronic image.”
Wilson said one of the most eye-catching creations of a 3D printer he has seen was a 3 foot skeleton key with the Aggie Seal that was printed using the EIC’s Polyjet printer. The same printer was used to print 5,000 0.25 mm parts for an engineering team that went to the space station, according to Wilson.
Adam Starbuck is the manager of A&M’s MakerPlace, where students go when in search for assistance in their creative processes. According to Starbuck, MakerPlace primarily uses 24 3D printers to fabricate parts that are designed by architecture students. He said that there is a need for 3D printers because they provide students access to novel tools not available to the masses.
“3D printers are still finding their place in the market,” Starbuck said. “Startup Aggieland will benefit from using 3D printing, because 3D printing brings the time from conception to physical models down to an all-time low. Students working on their ideas can iterate through designs with 3D printing to know for a fact their designs will work before they talk to investors and industry professionals.”

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