MU club explores creation of solid objects through 3-D printing technology

Tuesday, April 9, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:05 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Alex Madinger, president of MU 3-D Printing Club, holds a gear cube made by a 3-D printing machine. This cube, made of plastic and screws, is created using a digital formula along with printing software to produce a 3-D structure.

COLUMBIA — In a dimly lit basement room constructed of concrete walls and hard stone floors, creations are born.

Lafferre Hall is a place of magic, where a single idea can become a reality through 3-D printing.

3-D printing is the process of creating three-dimensional solid objects by “printing” layers of heated plastic on top of each other, layer by layer. Mechanical engineers, biomechanical engineers, designers, architects and artists throughout the world use this process to create prototypes, designs and solid models. Students are exploring and learning about this process at MU through the 3-D Printing Club.

The 3-D Printing Club was founded in October by seniors Alex Madinger and Derek Provance. They saw a number of people interested in 3-D printing but no community for them to grow and learn, Madinger said. More than 100 people attended the first meeting in November.

Madinger recounted that he had nowhere to nurture his passion for 3-D printing before the club’s formation.

“When I began I was adrift and felt on my own,” Madinger said. “We want to empower students to investigate 3-D printing further if they want to.”

The club meets every first and third Thursday of the month. The meeting agendas vary. The club could have a demonstration on a new technique, hold elections for officers or video chat with speakers from around the world. Throughout the year, the club holds seminars to further the education of their members. Seminars include 3-D Printing Club 101 to teach the basics of 3-D printing and computer aided design to teach programs used to make models for printing.

Madinger, a mechanical engineering student and president of the 3-D Printing Club, and Provance, a computer science student and vice president of the club, started building 3-D printers during the summer out of parts ordered online. They assembled the printers using blueprints and instructions also found on the Internet. The plastic that is used by the club is the same plastic used to make Legos. The students either create their own designs to print or they find images on the Internet and print off the models.

The club encourages students from all majors and areas of interest to join. The first member to join was a communications major.

Columbia’s Modern Meadow, 1601 S. Providence Road, is using this process to print leather and steak, as in meat, Provance said. Just like in regular 3-D printing, the printer goes layer by layer to create the final product. Except this time, the substances used are the cells of the meat along with a bonding agent. The cells fuse together to create the final product.

Provance said he hopes that this technology will carry the world into a brighter future by feeding the less fortunate in foreign countries.

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Richard Saunders April 9, 2013 | 2:21 p.m.
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