Colorado State University Opens 3D Laboratory for Community Use

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David Prawel and Colorado State University’s Mechanical Engineering Department have begun a new program that assists entrepreneurs and others in the community with 3D printing while training students on this revolutionary new technology.

Prawel, a senior research scientist in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, has opened the Idea-2-Product Laboratory to the community so anyone can use this amazing 3-D printing equipment to create prototypes and products, repair parts, beautiful artwork, or virtually anything they can imagine. The lab is staffed by current and graduated engineering students who can provide design and printing expertise. Prawel charges a small fee to recoup costs of materials and maintenance.

“3D printing is very high-value technology that has been proven to increase innovation and accelerate time-to-market for countless entrepreneurs and companies,” said Prawel, who has 31 years of experience working with 3D software and companies, including six companies he helped create. “We provide the equipment and expertise; our users provide the ideas and innovation. You can’t steer innovation – you just have to provide the tools and put some water on it and let it go.”

“The lab currently has five, soon to be seven, machines that can print up to 18 types of materials and create intricate designs that couldn’t be created any other way,” Prawel added. One or two more machines are available for use in the Morgan Library depending on the demand for the machines in the laboratory.

“We’re already at capacity – we are running these machines full-time,” Prawel explained, noting that staff assists users until they’re are certified to use the devices themselves. “Users learn how to make their ideas become real products, and on the way they learn things like computer-assisted design and manufacturing and all kinds of things they’ve never thought of before. This helps satisfy the educational mission of our lab.”

Erica Suchman, a professor in the CSU Department of Microbiology Immunology and Pathology, is working with the lab to develop 3-D printed models of virus-antibody models that can be snapped together to create unique epitope binding sites. This allows students to create different antibodies with specificity to different epitopes or shapes on the surface of 3D-printed viruses.

“These models will be given to the students in the class to manipulate creating different antibodies and exploring where on the virus these antibodies can bind, allowing them to visualize a difficult special concept,” said Suchman, who is in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

I2P software and equipment are funded by contributions from Autodesk, Lulzbot, Advanced Manufacturing Enterprises, the Mechanical Engineering Department and by CSU’s students through the university’s Student Fee Review Board. I2P would also like to acknowledge the vision and assistance of the Morgan Library for space, resources and technical support.