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3D Printing Program Makes Name for Itself

Updated: May 30

By Grainne Dutter

With a scoop of gypsum powder and the push of a button, Chris Yates produces an exact model of himself.

It’s perfect. Down to his brown, wavy hair.

This is one of the many projects possible in the 3D printing lab at FRCC in Larimer County.

Other projects, each designed and carried out by students, include printing animal figures, chess pieces, and even a photograph.

The prints can take anywhere from hours to days to complete.

Yates is the head of the FRCC Computer Aided Design (CAD) program, with 3D printing one of its popular offerings.

Students do two main things within the printing lab: 3D scanning and 3D printing.

3D printing and Scanning Room CAD 2660
Pictured: 3D printing and Scanning Room CAD 2660. Image Credit: Betty Abate.

Scanning is when a machine is used to scan the object or area from multiple angles to then take measurements to develop into a design. Once a student has created a scan, he or she decides which type of 3D printing machine to use for a new object.

Architects, mechanical designers, virtual reality, and even detectives at crime scenes use 3D scanning.

Yates said demand for 3D printing is driven by the medical industry, which has the most uses for it and also spends more money on it than anyone else. Thus new development is constantly taking place in 3D printing.

In hospitals, the process also involves using 3D scanning on patients, said Yates.

“After scanning a patient’s bone, bone mesh is printed in a latus structure that allows it to maintain the same flexibility as bones do. They can modify how flexible it is by the density and structure of the latus,” Yates said.

Bone mesh is only one of the ways 3D printing can be used in the medical industry.

It can also be used for prosthetics, models, etc.

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