Increasingly 3D printing is being adopted within Design and Technology departments to introduce new and emerging technology into the curriculum. One of the benefits of this is to replicate the industrial practice of using 3D printing as a rapid prototyping tool. This allows students to quickly test and iterate their design ideas, especially when developing small custom parts to specific tolerances which could require several cycles of testing and design iteration to perfect.

Michael Noonan, Head of Technology at Queen Elizabeth School in Barnet, made use of a Raise E2 3D printer loan from CREATE Education to enable rapid prototyping for three school projects. In this first case study, Michael and the students explain how the 3D printer was utilised to enter a prestigious Global Engineering Design Challenge.

Project 1: University of Texas Tyler Covid Engineering Design Challenge

In this global project (recommended by Dave Parry from CLEAPSS), students (Team @immunxqe) are designing a product to respond to needs related to the challenges presented by the current COVID-19 pandemic. In the planning stage students identified different problems encountered by the requirement of increased social distancing. Students then focused the project on designing a mechanism to automatically dispense tablets over the course of a month to reduce social contact between nurses and care home residents.

Designing and Reviewing

During the project students designed different mechanisms to dispense different tablets. The 3D printer allowed us to rapidly prototype different mechanisms to review and assess the feasibility of the mechanism in the design. It also allowed us to make mechanisms with really tight tolerances, so that we could ensure only one tablet would pass through at a time.

Making

With the 3D printer, we could rapidly print mechanisms from CAD to the exact size. The Raise E2 3D printer that we borrowed from CREATE Education had a dual extruder. This saved time by allowing us to rapidly prototype two different mechanisms at once, whereas normally it would take much longer to make these mechanisms, making it harder to rapidly prototype different design ideas

The ability to have a mode which can be tested by hand is incredibly advantageous, and CFD/ FEA analysis is only really useful for fluid and force, but is limited in testing a small volume such as tablet dispensation.

Benefits

Due to the 3D printer, we were able to print supports and the outer housing in different colours, allowing us to create a more aesthetically pleasing design. The two nozzles working simultaneously also increased the speed of the 3D printing allowing us to print numerous designs at once, such as the funnel and the gear mechanism. On top of this, the large bed size, allowed us to print the funnel to the exact size, whereas usually we would have had to build this physically, instead of 3D printing it.

Outcome

The 3D printing technology has helped us rapidly prototype different designs, allowing us to CAD different designs while the previous design is printing. This also allowed us to make make minor adjustments to previous mechanisms, without having to rebuild the whole thing. This way, we can easily adjust the mechanism to make the design even better for the next iteration. We hope to achieve highly in this challenge for our diverse team, which combines the ability of the best prospective engineering and bio-medical science students in our school. We hope to have a highly refined design solution to the problem and put UK invention on the map in this prestigious engineering challenge.

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