Duke University is home to one of the world’s leading programs for giving students access to 3D printing. Duke’s program, which started with just a few students able to try 3D printing on a single Printrbot Simple Metal, has now grown to 35+ printers and over 250 students with access. Their goal in 2016 is to distribute access to 3D printing to the entire student body and faculty.
“We went out and looked at other colleges and toured labs trying to really understand what was working for them and what wasn’t,” said Chip Bobbert, Digital Media Engineer and Emerging Media Technologist at Duke. “Where schools struggled was in providing an easy way to make machines available and manage that process,” said Bobbert.Duke partnered with 3DPrinterOS to provide cloud infrastructure and management for their growing network. This cloud infrastructure makes it possible for any student or faculty at Duke to use their university credentials to upload a file to the cloud and print on any of Duke’s 35+ printers located in various locations at their Raleigh campus. Students can even print from the comfort of their dorm rooms and watch models get built in real-time via external cameras on the machines.
Charles Driza (left) from the 3DPrinterOS team and Chip Bobbert (right) from Duke University.
“We had over 4800 hours of printing by 250+ students across 2500+ print jobs last semester alone. We were able to track individual users, machines and print jobs across the entire network via 3DPrinterOS reporting features and we used that data to justify adding an additional 22 Ultimaker 3D printers to meet the growing demands of our student body and faculty,” said Bobbert.One of the most important factors enabling the growth at Duke University was the tracking and reporting of 3D printing data. Working with the 3DPrinterOS team, Duke was able to create customized reports detailing reasons for print job cancellation. This has allowed Duke to greater understand and analyze students printing patterns and how to improve success rates across all machines in their network.
Duke University sees 3D printing as a great enabler for encouraging innovation for their students and faculty. “Students are leaving and forming their own businesses and products. They are working through rapid prototyping process and starting their own companies right out of school, just recently we’ve had students create biometric wearable’s based on 3D printed prototypes. The sky is the limit when students have access to 3D printing, at Duke we feel like anybody should be able to send a job for 3D printing over our network,” said Bobbert.