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Pioneer instructor touts benefits of 3-D printing

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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Someday, 3-D printers may be as ubiquitous as their two-dimensional, paper-printing cousins, Dan Beaudoin said.

"Already we're talking about bio-printing," he said. "We're going to see this 3-D printing become more and more popular. Anything we can design on a computer, we can print."

Beaudoin is the Linkup After School Site Coordinator at the Pioneer School District. Beaudoin runs the district's robotics club, and also teaches students about 3-D printing. He also helped acquire a 3-D printer for Oakland Bay Junior High School.

"I think (technology) is so rapidly changing, these students have to stay on top of this stuff otherwise they'll get left behind," he said. "People who can be on top of that technology and create objects on a computer that they can print can be in demand."

Beaudoin and Jake Seil of Sims Vibration Laboratory spoke about 3-D printing Friday to the Retired Scientists of Mason County Club at the Shelton Timberland Library.

Beaudoin said 3-D printing technology is about 30 years old, but has only recently become available to the public.

He demonstrated the small printer used by Pioneer School District's students in his Robotics Club.

The printer, which was made with parts made by other 3-D printers, costs about $800 and was funded by a grant, he said.

This particular printer uses spooled plastic cord, which it melts and extrudes through a nozzle, to create 3-dimensional products. Other printers use metal, glass, or other materials to print 3-D objects.

"It's crude," Seil said. "It's kind of like a glue gun."

Students use free computer aided design technology to design projects for the printer. Patterns for more complex projects can also be downloaded from the Internet, Beaudoin said.

Someday, people might be able to order something online, then, rather than wait for it to come in the mail, print it on their personal 3-D printer, he said.

"There's going to be a radical shift in manufacturing," he said. "It's going to become more personalized."

Today, the technology is surpassing the plastic objects Pioneer's small printer can make, Beaudoin said.

Soon, printers will be able to create organs and other organic parts, he said.

"They're talking about real cells, printing with real cells," he said.

Teaching students how to use the new technology will prepare them for that future, Beaudoin said.

"I basically just started the program at Pioneer," he said. "I just want these kids to be aware of how this is going to change technology. What it boils down to is coming up with ideas on how to use this technology. I want them to start thinking about ideas."

Copyright 2014 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: May 15, 2014

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