July 22 2014 Latest news:
Saturday, March 8, 2014
A Dereham school has made its first forays into an exciting new phase of computer-aided manufacture after taking delivery of a 3D printer.
The machine, worth £2,500, was donated to Neatherd High School’s design and technology department in return for sending a group of students to the 3D Printshow in London in November.
There, they saw some of the applications at the most expensive end of this emerging technology, which has been used to create items ranging from car parts to fashion accessories, and Hollywood special effects to artificial organs.
At Neatherd, the school has so far been able to “print” model frogs, tiny mugs and prototype box designs.
The shapes are formed from plastic which is heated to 200 degrees through the print head, before being precisely laid in thin molten filaments – typically 0.3mm wide – to build the contours of the designed shape from the bottom upwards.
Jonathan Appleby, a resistant materials teacher at the school, said: “It is like a computer-controller cake-icer, except it squirts plastic instead of icing.
“We didn’t know exactly what we were going to get until it turned up, but this model is quite good because it shows the kids how a lot of things might be prototyped. We have got some CAD (computer-aided design) machines here, but this one is the next stage.
“I was really surprised at how quickly it builds the prototypes. We are already using it for a box project and if, for example, the kids wanted to make a door handle to be customised for someone who might be elderly or have frail hands, then this allows them to try out new shapes and new ideas for market research.”
Jason Chapman, head of technology, said “The best way I can find to describe it to the kids is like a glue gun working on four axes. A lot of people think it is very complicated, but it’s not really. You have a feed for the plastic which is a PLA (polylactic acid) polymer, which does not have a smelly residue like other plastics. It is fed from this tube and the head heats it up to melt it.”