Dimensional opportunities flow with engineering design

San Jacinto College has implemented 3D printers in its engineering design graphics, engineering and digital art classes.
  • San Jacinto College has implemented 3D printers in its engineering design graphics, engineering and digital art classes.

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San Jacinto College has implemented 3D printers in its engineering design graphics, engineering and digital art classes.

San Jacinto College has implemented 3D printers in its engineering design graphics, engineering and digital art classes.

Dimensional opportunities flow with engineering design

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The potential of 3D printing could usher in the next industrial revolution, said William Buel, an instructor in the Engineering Design Graphics (EDG) department at San Jacinto College.

“In the future, you will see whole factories running only 3D printers to design, run, modify and finish products,” he said. “3D printing is already becoming very useful for rapid prototyping. Now if a company wants to build a new product, we can draw and print the prototype within hours to see if it works, rather than sending it to a machine shop, waiting months and then having to start over. In 10 years, every home will have one.”

3D printing is a process that starts with a virtual design using 3D modeling computer software. The digital file can then be transformed by the printer into a solid object through a layering process that adds materials to manufacture the product. A simple way to explain it is to envision a “glue gun on steroids,” Buel said.

“You can build anything you can imagine with a 3D printer,” he said. “Right now the limitation is the materials, but we see the opportunities growing.”

The whole process begins with design, which is why Buel and his colleagues in the EDG department are eager to take San Jacinto College to the forefront of 3D printer training in the Houston area. When the college opens the planned 74,000-square-foot Center for Engineering and Technology on the South Campus in a couple of years, Buel said it will house a dedicated 3D printing lab in addition to the new classrooms and multipurpose engineering labs.

Students are enthusiastic about the 3D printing opportunities. The San Jacinto College EDG-Technical Design Project team won a competition at the state level last year and came in fourth in national competition.

“One of our 3D printing classes is five hours long on a Friday afternoon, but students are there, actively participating, which tells you something about their energy for this subject,” Buel said.

However, students begin the EDG program with pencils.

“Our students begin with manual drafting using lines and paper,” Buel said. “Then we move into 3D modeling, using software such as AutoCAD.”

Students can choose from three areas of study within the department: architectural, petrochemical or mechanical. Architectural design is related to buildings and construction, petrochemical can involve piping and instrumentation systems, and mechanical can cover a broad range of machines and systems. Courses in EDG are available at all three San Jacinto College campuses, with day, evening and weekend classes. Students can earn a certificate of technology or an associate of applied science degree.

Buel said the average beginning drafter salary is between $47,000-$60,000.

“We send a quality student out to the workplace,” he said. “Our graduates are familiar with more than one software and experienced with different applications. We produce a well-rounded student capable of doing everything from basics to advanced.”

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3D Printing. The next Goldrush is on it´s way. Inside information on how to start printing in 3D, where to buy Printers, how to use them, and the newest Pictures and reviews of available 3D Printers.

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