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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

NE takes one 3-D step in design

By Colt Taylor/ campus editor

NE library specialist Brooke Thompson and drafting adjunct instructor Jeffrey Opel prepare to create an item on the 3-D printer. Opel teaches an introduction to 3-D printing software class.Photos by Peter Matthews/The Collegian
NE library specialist Brooke Thompson and drafting adjunct instructor Jeffrey Opel prepare to create an item on the 3-D printer. Opel teaches an introduction to 3-D printing software class.
Photos by Peter Matthews/The Collegian

With each passing year, science fiction becomes closer to reality. 

Hoverboards may not be all we thought they’d be, and flying cars are still in development. But with 3-D printers, making objects appear out of almost nothing is now possible.

This summer marked the first Intro: Solid Model to 3-D printing class on NE, taught by drafting adjunct instructor Jeffrey Opel. Students learned the basics of the Solidworks design software program while creating simple objects of their own with the printer. Student-made objects include can openers, custom phone holders, cup holders, jewelry and a prosthetic hand.

“[Solidworks is] a highly technical software designed for mechanical engineers specifically,” Opel said.

Workforce services manager Hank Johnson said the software has architectural applications for creating miniature models, geographic info systems to print and analyze terrain and even the art applications for pottery and sculpting.

“[We’re] looking to grow outward for students on independent projects after Intro,” Johnson said.

One hope of the class is to expose students to 3-D printing with Solidworks being the main draw of the class.

NE currently has four 3-D printers. The two primarily used in class include a small, open Delta printer and a toaster-oven-sized Cartesian.

Brooke Thompson holds a 3-D printed hand to show one of the many objects that can be printed with this new technology.
Brooke Thompson holds a 3-D printed hand to show one of the many objects that can be printed with this new technology.

Thanks to a recent patent expiration, the average price of 3-D printers is now close to $1,000, Opel said. The remaining printers are currently being considered for student use in the library, with details still being discussed.

Sidelis Drafting owner Bradley Shelton completed the course this summer and is planning on expanding his business into 3-D modeling.

“I can make anything anyone needs as long as it’s within the parameters,” he said.

Shelton spoke fondly of watching his designs being created by one of these machines.

“[You go in] not knowing you get to witness something being created from nothing,” he said. “You draw a design and get to watch a printer make what you designed.”

The next class runs 8 a.m.-noon Oct. 8-Nov. 5. It is a continuing education class, so students can register up to the third class period.

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