Friday afternoon was a special day for Sulphur Springs High School’s advanced art students; Teacher Phillip Dick unveiled a new state-of-the-art 3D printer. A first for SSHS, the printer will have myriad applications for the department.
“I have been looking into 3D printing for at least a year now,” said Dick. “When they first popped up in the news, they were a novelty and mostly used for industrial applications. Initially they cost at least six figures.”
Dick waited patiently for the price of 3D printers to drop. Eventually, a new generation of the models was created that were much smaller and less expensive.
“They started making 3D printers for home use and would typically be under the $500 range,” said Dick. “After seeing what the printers were capable of and how many applications we could use the printer for, I thought purchasing one would be very doable.”
The 3D printer that Dick purchased makes finished sculptures out of ABS plastic. The machine has a head with an extruder that secretes a plastic filament. The filament heats up to create one thin layer of plastic, and dries very quickly. Then, a platform lowers slightly so that the extruder can create the next level of plastic. On average, a 6- inch 3D figure can be created in 30 minutes or less.
“We could also build a sculpture in layers. We could tell the printer to create a sculpture in slices so that we could build larger items,” said Dick.
Advanced art students could start blending different images together to create completely new sculpture that the printer could build. Dick said that one project he had envisioned would be creating personalized chess pieces with the students.
“There are already created 3D files, and students could use that computer program to put their face on a chess piece and print it. A student could have a chess set with their grandparents and parents faces on individual pieces,” he said.
Dick said that the cost of the printer was covered by fundraising the school had collected for the department earlier in the year.
“We have so many ideas on how this printer can be used. Right now, I am still learning the technology because it is so new. I am looking at the software and doing as much research as I can,” said Dick. “We are going to try to start using the printer before this semester ends.”