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3D Printer To Turn Student Ideas Into Reality

3D Printer
French artist Henri Matisse once said, "Drawing is putting a line 'round an idea."

Now DePaul students can go beyond just drawing their business ideas on the backs of napkins and truly create them with the latest technology marvel to hit the planet — the 3D printer.

Purchased by the Center for Innovation (CI) and housed in the Department of Management at the Driehaus College of Business, the new 3D printer is a unique resource that empowers students to turn their ideas into reality.

3D printers allow users to make three-dimensional figures from digital files. It can take a doll design created on an iPad and turn it into an actual doll within minutes. The technology is powerful and is disrupting business industries from manufacturing to health care. People have created everything from customized baby spoons to rocket engines with 3D printers, and creating human tissue for medical research and therapeutic use is the technology's next revolution.

The 3D printer at CI will be used for more practical endeavors, including creating prototypes of students' product ideas for business classes and pitches. Students working on innovations with local businesses that are prototyping products also will have access to the device.

"Here at the ... Center we work with students to help them turn their ideas into reality," says Lisa Gundry, management professor and director of CCI. "This printer will help them prototype their ideas and show others what their products will look like. Nearly whatever they can visualize, we can create."

The printer was bought to support the efforts of the CI's new Innovation Labs, set to open this fall. The lab is underwritten by a gift from DePaul alumnus Robert Perrelli (MBA '06, BS '04), a senior manager at TCF Inventory Finance, Inc. Perrelli is a member of the CI Advisory Board. Though housed in the CI office, Gundry said the printer, for a small fee, is available for use by any DePaul student or faculty member.

Users will need to download the free printer software MakerWare and transfer their digital design to an SD card. The printer will read the information from the card to print the object depicted. (See a video demonstration.)

Willis Tower Replicas
At a recent open house showcasing the printer, Randy Vollrath, an undergraduate economics major, was in awe as he watched the 3D printer at work.

"This is amazing," Vollrath said as he watched the new printer create a blue replica of Chicago's famous landmark Willis Tower. "I never would have thought I'd have the opportunity to see this, let alone use a 3D printer. There's a lot of potential here."

So far CI staffers and students have made jewelry, Chicago souvenirs and other objects to test the printer. But Gundry knows this is just the beginning.

"We want to provide avenues for students to show their ideas and creativity in all forms of expression — words, pictures and now 3D," said Gundry.

Want to know more about the new 3D printer? Contact CI for printer availability and fees at (312) 362-8395 or at​​​​​