Northumbria University pioneer a purpose-built open-access 3D print studio using Ultimaker

Northumbria University have just undertaken a project to create a 3D printing facility that was self-sustainable and would future proof the faculty’s needs in relation to curriculum change, research, and general activities.

They also wanted to promote a wider appreciation of the skills and values associated with designing and making. For this project to be successful, they considered four main areas in their strategy, ensuring that it was flexible enough to respond to business needs.

Adam Cosheril, Senior Technician in Additive Manufacturing and rapid prototyping at Northumbria University, explains the four areas in this case study and why they chose to go with Ultimaker 3D Printers and why they chose to work with CREATE Education:

Choosing the printers

We required a machine specification that was robust, modern, and capable of printing a variety of materials in experimental printing. We needed machines that could be used 24 hours a day in a high-demand environment without excessive print failures and machine faults. Print quality and resolution were also important for final year models. We also wanted a range of build bed capabilities without having to change operating software. The printer’s interface was also extremely important, we needed to cater to one-time users, printing simple models, to advance printing using experimental materials. The software had to be accessible and positive to a range of user levels. The range of materials available was vital to our selection, we needed machines that would support open spool filaments and encourage research activity.

User Groups and Knowledge Levels & Training

One of the biggest challenges at Northumbria University is having a facility that is accessible for beginner, intermediate, and advanced users from a wide range of different disciplines and backgrounds. This highlighted that the project requires more than just the equipment and it was vital to have the correct support and training in place for our staff and students. Training and support were highlighted as the second major influence on the direction of the project after the selection of the printers. 

Technical Support

For an open-access 3D print lab to be successful we realised we needed a strong technical support network for one when issues arose. We did not want to be left in a position where mechanical parts are not available, or software stays stagnant and does not develop with the environment. We needed a strategy to ensure downtime of any issues could be kept to a minimum.

Outcome

We have a purpose-built open-access 3D print studio equipped with 17 Ultimaker S3 and 3 S5 available to the staff and students of our faculty. The upgraded facility has seen a dramatic increase in use within the department and has also encouraged other courses to adopt some form of 3D printing exercises into their projects and modules. We have created an online platform where we host training on the fundamentals of 3D printing which is available 24/7, this has seen engagement increase significantly. We are starting to see more projects develop as more of our faculty members start to realise the potential of the facility. The next stage of our development is the role out of the Ultimaker Digital Factory to allow our students to print remotely 24/7.

We have seen a great response from our users of the lab after the upgrade and have produced some fantastic prints and prototypes this year. We see this upgrade as only the beginning to encourage more people within our University to use the space.

Why we worked with CREATE Education

Create Education understands the nature of 3D printing within an education environment. They have a great team who help with more than just selling a printer. Working with Create Education has helped us transform our open-access 3D print studio and we look forward to working with them for many years to come.

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