3D Printing, FDM Technology, Education

Surprising Ways an Engineering Department Can Use 3D Printing

By David Ramsey on July 21, 2020

As we have seen throughout this series, departments in different areas such as healthcare and fine arts have benefited from 3D printing and have taken advantage of the different 3D printing technologies available. Today, engineering departments are also implementing 3D printing to expand their students' knowledge and prepare them for future jobs in manufacturing. Different universities have implemented rapid prototyping centers or created curricula to offer advanced additive manufacturing degrees or certifications. In today's article, we go over some of these programs.

Case Study: University of Virginia and Curry School of Education

To reach students in a more hands-on approach, the University of Virginia and Curry School of Education have incorporated 3D printing in their undergraduate programs for Mechanical Engineering. The goal is to aid the students in gaining a deeper understanding of the dynamics that take place when dealing with mechanisms. Thanks to a series of Stratasys uPrint 3D printers, students no longer must struggle with 2D textbook representations of dynamic components. These printers create 3D objects by depositing molten plastic in thin layers, building an object a single layer at a time. They can reproduce those same dynamic components in 3D CAD and print them into working mechanisms. Having this “working” mechanism in hand brings understanding that a 2D textbook drawing could never do.

University of  Virginia


Stratasys uPrint


Jennifer Chiu, Assistant Professor in the Curry School of Education, believes that the project has already enhanced student learning. “Being able to visualize motion opens access to core dynamics concepts. In this way, students are able to actually engage in problem-solving and understand core content instead of trying to figure out the problem.” 

Case Study: Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE)


Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) and its Additive Lab Consortium members keeps students constantly learning and improving themselves. With a focus on applications development, students work with businesses to solve unique challenges to improve product development.

"We train students on additive, and at the same time help Consortium members integrate additive manufacturing into their internal operations in ways that make financial sense
to them," said Vince Anewenter, director of the Rapid Consortium.

Through the Rapid Prototyping Center, students learn about the design process and how it can be improved through additive manufacturing (AM), but they also learn about the economical impact of 3D printing. With the Stratasys F123 series, students get a hands-on experience that prepares them to fill in the gaps in the manufacturing world when they graduate.

>> Watch the video and read more about MSOE Rapid Prototyping Center

Engineering Schools Offering Additive Manufacturing Degrees

At Penn State University, 3D printing is so ingrained into the engineering world that major universities have developed a Master’s programs just for AM. Penn State now offers a Master’s course worth 30-credit hours that explores the use of 3D printing in manufacturing, aerospace, medical devices and more. The course continues to focus on the impact of creating one-off models is having and pushing to be a leader in how 3D printing can be further used in industry.

MIT_Additive_CourseMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offers two online courses on additive manufacturing. In the short 5-day course, students will learn the basics of 3D printing, materials and how to handle different 3D printers. The 12-week course is focused on AM for innovative design and production and the fundamentals, applications and implications of printing for design and manufacturing.

Other schools like Carnegie Mellon, Ohio State and Purdue University are also jumping on board by offering their own graduate degrees in additive manufacturing. The benefits of being able to produce a working conceptual model make 3D printers an invaluable tool when it comes to understanding what will work, what will not and why.

>> Learn more about other AM programs

3D printing allows engineering students to better prepare themselves for when they graduate and have hands-on experience across different industries. Engineering departments are learning how important it is for their students to understand these technologies and how, through 3D printing, they can increase productivity and innovate through their design process.

If you’ve been thinking about creating a 3D printing lab for your department and don’t know where to start? Download our guide to help you through the process and learn how to create the ideal 3D printing lab for your team.

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