The Centurion

Founders Hall’s Hidden Secret: A Stash of 3-D Printers

Christine Delahanty and a 3-D Printer
Photo Credit: Bridget Neirotti

Christine Delahanty and a 3-D Printer Photo Credit: Bridget Neirotti

Bridget Neirotti

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There are now several functioning 3D printers hidden away in the back of Founders Hall for the use of faculty and staff under the direction of Christine Delahanty, the engineering program coordinator at Bucks.
These special printers are stored in a locked room that Delahanty refers to as the “innovation lab.” Due to the complexity of the machines, students and faculty looking to get a hands-on experience with the printers will have to be trained by Delahanty on how to use them.
Bucks acquired its first 3D printer back in 2014, and the collection has slowly been growing since. The main type of printer used in the lab is the Flashforge, which the school owns four of. There is also a Makerbot Replicator Z18 which can be used to make slighter larger scale prints.
The ability to purchase these magnificent machines were split “between capital funds, grants, and strategic initiatives,” according to Delahanty.
Learning to use the printers has come with many trials and errors. Delahanty shared that “there’s a lot of thought and research and processing that goes into 3D printing.”
Two shelves of a cabinet in the lab are filled with 3D projects gone wrong. Sometimes the base of a printing will slip under pressure and result in what looks like a tangled pile of spaghetti, or it will cool before the rest of the model is finished printed, causing it to curl oddly. Other times the scale of the object just isn’t the size it was intended to be.
None of these mishaps will be going to waste though. The main group of students in charge of the printers are currently working on a device that will be able to recycle the filament used for printing.
The objects that are printed correctly are awe-inspiring due to the precision and detail some of them possess. The largest object that has been printed in the lab so far was a replica of the Eiffel Tower, which was printed using the Z18 and took 48 hours to be produced. This printer can create pieces with dimensions of 12in x 12in x 18in, the largest out of any of the printers in Bucks’ possession.
The process for 3D printing is a very slow one due to the layering and detail put in. The material used for printing is usually a plastic filament and is essentially a long string of said plastic on a spool. This string is fed into the printer where it is then melted and extruded from the printer nozzle in a very thin form, layering over itself to build the design.
There are two types of plastic that the printers are compatible with, known as ABS and PLA. The lab has access to both kinds, although they are not to be used together because one will not stick to the other. The ABS plastic is more durable than the PLA, according to Delahanty. Another printer in the lab also uses a mixture similar to drywall powder and super glue in order to create ceramic-like models.
“We’re very excited about what we get to do back here,” Delahanty beamed. With technology this advanced, the future of the STEM programs at Bucks looks very bright.
To use the 3D printers, students and faculty can contact Delahanty at [email protected]

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Founders Hall’s Hidden Secret: A Stash of 3-D Printers