3D Printing Advances Design Education At SCAD

SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design, prides itself on being “The University for Creative Careers.” It seems to be living up to that mission, as it is ranked as one of the best in the United States by DesignIntelligence. The goal of the university is to produce productive, high-quality designers who combine academic knowledge with design skills and real-world experience.

To facilitate this professional experience, the school has developed close working relationships with top companies and organizations, often in the form of Corporate Sponsorship Projects. These relationships offer the students the opportunity to participate in real-world projects, working to solve real problems for real clients. These projects have included construction equipment (SCB), a mobile printing device (Hewlett-Packard), toys (Fisher Price), clothing & accessories, and many others.

3D Printing in the Rapid Prototyping Lab

One of the most celebrated facilities at the Savannah campus is the Rapid Prototyping Lab. It is located in the Gulfstream Center for Industrial and Furniture Design. Included in this lab are more than a dozen Stratasys 3D Printers. These 3D Printers have been named after characters from the Jetsons TV show, as a way of expressing that they’re bringing the designers into the future.

We recently had the opportunity to chat with Justin Hopkins, the Manager of the SCAD Rapid Prototyping Lab. Hopkins is himself a graduate of SCAD (Bachelors of Fine Arts in Furniture Design) and has been running the Lab for eight years.  His enthusiasm and pride in the Lab are palpable. These sentiments are also echoed by the administration and by potential students. The access that the students have to advanced 3D printers and other equipment in the lab is a huge enticement for prospective students and the Rapid Prototyping Lab is included in every tour of the campus.

According to Hopkins, the greatest advantages and value of the Stratasys 3D Printers are that “the Stratasys 3D Printers never fail. We always receive great service and support.”

You can get a view of the Lab and see the Stratasys 3D Printers in action in this video below:

Integrating 3D Printing into the Design Curriculum

Our discussion with Hopkins focused on the integration of 3D printing into the standard design curriculum – both from the perspectives of the faculty and the students.

Originally, Computer Aided Design (CAD) courses were just classes on how to use CAD Software. Today, every CAD class incorporates actual 3D printing of the models that the students design. Even studio courses may require students to 3D print their designs

Benefits of 3D Printers for Design Students

The first set of benefits, from an educator’s perspective, is mainly logistic.  The actual equipment is simpler and safer to use than traditional machine shop equipment. Moreover, there is less time wasted working in the prototype shop.  This is particularly important at SCAD, where the academic schedule is based on 10-week quarters.  Using 3D Printers significantly streamlines the modeling and production process, allowing it to meet those short deadlines.

Furthermore, not only are the results produced more quickly, but they are of higher quality as well. Students’ designs are not limited by their knowledge of how to operate each piece of machine shop equipment. Their results are more creative, complex, and precise – making for better presentations as well.

Finally, since the SCAD faculty places great emphasis on preparing students as much as possible for the real world, they see great added value in the fact that the students actually see the equipment and directly interact with the technicians that produce their designs.

 What Do Students See as the Biggest Benefits of Having 3D Printers Readily Accessible?

Students realize that they are being trained on the forefront of technology and using leading-edge equipment. From the very first day of classes, they are already working on computers and not focusing only on theory.

The students also feel that the deep integration of 3D printing into the curriculum provides them with a lot of additional creative freedom. They are free to think out of the box – and outside the limitations of older equipment.  They are also not limited by their personal manual dexterity.  In addition, they are able to extend and expand their original designs in ways that would not be possible without 3D printing.  Students do not need to be concerned that their designs will be too complex to manufacture or even to prototype, because with additive manufacturing “if they can model it – they can make it!” in the words of Justin Hopkins, the Manager of the SCAD Rapid Prototyping Lab.

Their process is simply: From imagination to computer to a model in hand.

From the Lab to the Store Shelf

Continuing with their principle of preparing students for the real world, SCAD has established a product development venture to cultivate and promote the work of talented SCAD students, alumni and faculty artists. Certain select products are promoted and sold in retail stores throughout the world. One example of such a student project is the Christy Collection of clocks, whose development included 3D printing of its manufacturing prototype, as shown in the video above.



Photo Credit: The Christy Collection Clock, Christy Batta for Working Class Studio. Source: shopSCAD

 Continued Integration of 3D Printing into the Design Curriculum

When we asked Hopkins to look into the future and describe how he sees the ongoing integration of 3D printing into the school’s curriculum, his focus was on more options.  He’d like to see the lab expanding into different 3D printing technologies.  In addition to their existing Stratasys FDM 3D Printers, he has already put in a request for a Stratasys Objet30 Pro 3D Printer so that students can 3D print models with finer detail as well as with multiple materials and the digital blends that are offered by the PolyJet 3D printing technology. In general, Hopkins wants to have a wider variety of technologies and materials, so that students can truly cater and customize the 3D printing process to the specific task at hand.

Without a doubt, the design students at SCAD are learning to design the future using 3D printing. The result is not only higher quality models, but also higher quality designers. Stratasys is proud to play a major role in that.

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