The Sears think[box] at Ohio’s Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) is one of the largest university-based innovation centers in the world. This $35M project is used by about 5,000 visitors per month — including students, alumni, faculty and visitors – many of whom take advantage of the center’s 3D printing capabilities. Stratasys FDM and PolyJet-based 3D printers are available to turn creative designs into practical products – enhancing the educational experience while also satisfying the needs of 21st-century employers.
“The 3D printers have helped us broaden the scope of projects coming through our center and provided much-added value for students as they develop their prototypes,” said Malcolm Cooke, executive director of the think[box] and an associate professor of engineering at CWRU.
Before think[box] opened, the use of 3D printing on CWRU campus was limited to a small group of engineering students working with professors, who had access to just two printers.
But once the university opened the innovation center up to the community 3D printing on campus changed drastically. Now, design students use the innovation center to build off-road vehicles for the Baja SAE Intercollegiate Design Competition; robotics students produce parts for their NASA Robotics Competition submissions; and medical students use 3D printed brain parts to enhance their neuroanatomy learning.
“They can get prototypes very quickly and early in the design stage, which translates into more design modifications,” Cooke said. “They can then communicate the design to team members. This is much easier than just looking at a CAD screen.”
Cooke sees even more 3D printers in the think[box]’s future and is particularly interested in adding more material choices to the center’s current lineup. “I’d like to provide students with as many different technologies and material choices as possible,” said Cooke.
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The university is equipping students with skills and team-building experience that today’s employers expect. “Most companies want technical skills and multidisciplinary team experience,” said Cooke. “Through Sears think[box], we’re able to promote the use of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship across campus. This, in turn, supports a wide range of inter-disciplinary exploration and activity.”