There are two labs as part of the BoilerMAKER space. First - The BoilerMAKER labs were the result of a need for socialization space for students in the College of Technology as well as a location for students to access desktop 3D printing technology (FDM). We purchased 12 Makerbot Replicator 2’s and a private company, 3rd Dimension, from Indianapolis, IN donates funds for materials that allows for free small printing jobs for students that are for student projects.
Second – The other BoilerMAKER lab is the called the ‘Guitar Lab’. Originally designed as a lab for educating students in manufacturing via building acoustic and electric guitars, it has grown in popularity and expanded its reach to allow students (under the observation of graduate and undergraduate staff), access to CNC routers, laser cutters/engravers, and other woodworking equipment for their academic projects.
All students at Purdue University and clients from the Purdue Foundry startup initiative can access the lab. It is open Monday – Friday between 8:30am - 8:00pm and is staffed by volunteer undergraduate/graduate staff. The lab accepts prints via e-mail and a new web-based submission system for manufacture.
(11) MakerBot Replicator 2 FDM Machine
(3) Airwolf HD2x FDM Machine
(1) Rostock Max V2 FDM Machine
(1) Othermill Milling Machine
(1) FormLabs Form1+ SLA Machine
(8) CAD Workstations
(1) Cricut Expression Cutting and Drawing Tool
(1) Large-Format Plotter
(1) ShopBot 4’ x 8’ CNC Router
(1) ShopBot 3’ x 2’ CNC Router
(1) Boss Laser 120W 36”x 24” Laser Cutter / Engraver
(1) Epilog Helix 60W 18” x 24” Laser Cutter / Engraver
(3) CAD Workstations
(1) SawStop Table Saw
Drill presses, power sanders, and various hand tools are also available.
3D printing materials are provided for free for students for one-off prototyping purposes as long as the print is under 100 grams of plastic. There are no machine time fees and the students bring in their own project materials.
The labs are overseen by Davin Huston, Clinical Assistant Professor, Purdue College of Technology School of Engineering Technology (BoilerMAKER Lab and Guitar Lab) and Mark French, Associate Professor, Purdue College of Technology School of Engineering Technology (Guitar Lab).
Graduate and undergraduate students manage the labs, while open lab times in the 3D printing lab are staffed via volunteers (with volunteer compensated by lifting the free printing weight limit). All lab monitors are trained in the safe and proper handling of all equipment in the labs.
Either a faculty member or their peers train all students in the use of all large and small equipment, software and the 3D printers. All monitors are trained on the safe handling of equipment. There is faculty supervision of the entire space ensuring safe and proper use of the space.
The space is used as an open lab where students can work on their own projects using CAD workstations during the hours of operation. Many student organizations have used the lab as a starting point for events that may involve 3D printing. In the summer, 7th – 8th grade summer camps are held in the room to help educate students on proper design processes.
The guitar lab is also open to students during hours of operation, as well as hosts summer workshops and courses for both K-12 educators and high school students in guitar building as a STEM topic.
The spaces have helped students become more involved in extracurricular activities and building prototypes of concepts that they may have; it’s given undergraduates the opportunity to engage with faculty and grad students via mentoring; they’ve create student networks and “bond” over the learning experience that is involved in making and designing prototypes.
One challenge is the pent-up demand for use of this space. The lab has a significant number of students and faculty that want to come in and use the space and at time we do not have enough equipment available to meet the need. Graduate students and undergraduate student staff have helped organize the lab to be the most efficient. We have started using an online queuing system to help solve the popularity of the printing service.
Safety has been a challenge with the guitar lab. This part of the space operates only under the supervision of paid support staff. Through improved e-mail communication and managing expectations of hours of operation, we have been able to meet the demand for use of this space.
The important thing to remember is that spaces like these become popular extremely quick. It is important to find people to help run the operations that can quickly adjust, handle issues that might crop-up, and must have excellent interpersonal communication skills.
We devised a method of coping with the popularity through a queuing systems to help coordinate all building projects that require large amounts of machine time. This will help manage expectations and will ensure everyone gets the chance to complete their project.