Inside UNI's $1.5 Million 3-D Printer
WATERLOO, Iowa - Jerry Thiel is in the opening days of the culmination of quite a journey.
"About two and a half years from concept to approaching the members of the legislature for funding the advance of the state of technology in the state of Iowa," said Thiel, the director of UNI's Metal Casting Center.
On the third floor of the TechWorks building in downtown Waterloo, Thiel and center manager Sairam Ravi are showing the capability and potential of the school's ExOne S-Max 3-D printer. With a price tag of $1.5 million, Thiel said it is the only one of its size in Iowa and one of about 30 in North America.
"We've got contacts from companies all over North America," said Thiel, of the reaction since UNI's printer started operating. "That's how much buzz is happening. It's going to be a great benefit for manufacturers."
Here is the easy guide on how 3-D printing works.
Ravi said a computer file goes into the computer.
"It basically reads the .SDL file," said Ravi. "We can import it inside the software and it starts printing."
The final projects that can be printed are what excites Thiel and Ravi the most.
"About 95% of the durable goods in this country contain metal castings," said Thiel. "It's the most versatile metal manufacturing method that we know of. When we look at this, this could help development, time-to-market, prototype, manufacturing from automotive parts, tractor parts and parts on a computer system."
The printer leaves behind its patterns, which Thiel said is sand and resin made from corn, with enough swipes to, eventually, create an object. Once this firm - yet still granular - object is complete, the next phase starts.
"Once the metal is poured around this, (the object) will break down and turn into loose sand and remove from the internal sections and the core will disappear," said Thiel.
Thiel said leaders of companies are calling daily for tours to see the technology. Yet, for the long term of the workforce, a benefit for decades.
"You can train the next generation of advanced technology. It's really a nice opportunity."
What's On KCRG