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Campus Receives 3D Printer, Assists Students and Staff Alike

By Kevin Lake, Staff Writer

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LIU just got an upgrade! This year saw the introduction of a 3D printer on campus.

The cutting-edge device, which can be seen in the Browse store in Hillwood Commons is the latest in technology that can assist students in their studies. Sophomore math and finance major Hrishikesh Shah, who is also a store associate at Browse, spoke about the printer. 

“If they have the right file format…we can print it out for them,” Shah said. “But we do it for students, faculty, basically any Long Island University person.”

So far the end products of the machine have popped up all over campus grounds in the form of plastic clip-on sharks that have popped up at previous events.

While the small trinkets are nice for many, few benefit more from this leap than those in the math department. 

“This a really good way for students to engage with hands-on learning,” Shah stated. 

3D printing, also called rapid prototyping or layer manufacturing, has been described as an excellent resource for classes since it adds a degree of tangibility to objects that appear in geometric fields. 

Mathematics professor Dr. Shahla Ahdout has high praise for the machine as well.

“[Previously,] if you want to draw a ball, what you do is draw a circle, and then you draw another circle and insert some dots,” Ahdout said. “You need to use your imagination to understand what it is but what we did is that we also created something equivalent to making the ball with the 3D printer.” 

The advantages certainly speak for themselves as Dr. Ahdout has turned abstract angles into reality. In her Multivariable Calculus class, a saddle point–which is a complex surface–was printed for the purpose of demonstrations with the help of Shah. Such innovations make learning much simpler as in the past, the only way to observe the saddle point would be via a graphing calculator which often would not capture the full slope of an object. 

“[Imagine] if you take a picture of someone putting it in a two-dimensional area, however, the person is in a three-dimensional space as we are, right?” Ahdout added. “So the difference is comparison. The same reason that when you look at a picture of a person, then you can imagine how it looks because your eyes and brain are used to this idea. But if you have other figures that you haven’t seen, it would be harder to imagine what they really look like.”

Additive printing, as it was previously called, has existed as early as the 1970s in basic prototype and hypothetical designs. By the 1990s, the machines could only create large metal shapes. In the last fifteen years, major strides have been made to make objects smaller, cost-effective and more flexible. 

At the moment 3D printing is accessible to anyone who submits their project as a CAD(Computer Aided Design) file, which commonly contains data for both three-dimensional and two-dimensional layouts of an object. The way the general production process acts is by taking plastic threads called “filament” which are then heated up and molded into the intended design by slowly layering out. The wider, global applications of these developments are very promising as they are used for simple figurines in role-playing games to artificial limbs and are even being used to test meat products created from the cells of animals rather than an entire deceased body.
For now, however, Long Island University’s printer is intended for academics such as those who are joining the upcoming digital engineering program next semester. This new major will have an entire class on additive manufacturing that will heavily incorporate the use of 3D printing.

 “It’s a real step in the future. We’ve been using traditional calculators and stuff like the development of AI, we’ve had traditional computers and software. It’s not just a different league of a sport, it’s a different sport itself. 3D printing would like to really change the way we will look at things,” Shah closed with. 

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