The Aachen University of Applied Sciences has been one of Germany’s most important universities since 1971. It places a tremendous amount of emphasis on STEM subjects as well as continuously growing areas of business studies and design fields. In 2010 the university formed a team of young technical enthusiasts to establish the GoetheLab for additive manufacturing. The focus of this group is centered on 3D printing material and feasibility studies, machine and process development, consulting and training, sample part production, and customer commissioned research.
Laura Thurn is a project engineer at Aachen University and head of the Plastics department at the GoetheLab for additive manufacturing. She states, “3D printing is now being used in a wide range of areas including tool and mold building, the automotive industry, aerospace technology, medical technology and many more. The benefits are clearly relevant. Previously, the production of many prototypes, small batches or individual items, was not economically viable. This is completely different with 3D printing. It increase the possibility for individualization and the geometrical design freedom required for the production of complex components.” In order to increase practical experience in 3D technology a Summer School program called 3D Printing Summer School, was created and successfully implemented in Pretoria, South Africa at the TUT University, a cooperation university of the Aachen University of Applied Sciences. Several German RepRap PRotos V3 3D printers were purchased beforehand by Aachen University and shipped to South Africa to be used by the 3D Printing Summer School project. The TUT University intends to set up an innovation center for their Additive Manufacturing area. Their inaugural event was the 3D Printing Summer School project and it was an enormous success. In all, 25-30 participants, consisting of university students and employees enjoyed working with the GRR printers for almost a week. Laura Thurn attended the summer school program and reported, “We firstly talked generally about the subject of 3D printing, its applications and the process involved. This also included the FDM process, i.e. plastics applications, which was then covered in detail. CAD was then discussed- how proprietary technical drawings can be designed and produced, and what requirements had to be observed.” Perhaps the best part of the 3D Printing Summer School is the assembly of the German RepRap printer. The PRotos V3 printers consist initially of printer kits and are assembled together with the participants in a hands-on workshop. “We are delighted with the German RepRap printer kits! Especially the assembly of the 3D printers together is very useful for working with the machine later and understanding the technology”, states Laura Thurn. Each team of 3-4 participants was looked after by an expert. Due to the popularity of the 3D Printing Summer School program, several of the groups consisted of up to 6 people. The participants had time to ask questions and get expert answers from their advisors. The participants were even allowed to bring in their own 3D print projects which was in line with the motto of the summer school “Materialize your Own Ideas- If you Can Imagine It- You Can Print It!” At the end of the five days, each participant was given a certificate for the 3D printing seminar. However, seeing the GRR PRotos V3 in operation, all of the theoretical information passed on combined with the hands-on experience gained provided the most important basis for understanding 3D technology. Graduates of the 3D Printing Summer School program are able to use the technology, understand it, master it and can then feel confident in using it on their own outside of the program. Some of the information learned from this program is rarely even taught in engineering courses. Laura explains, “The boys and girls from the mechanical engineering faculty who have taken part in the project are currently being trained as tutors and are then deployed accordingly.” The other courses that use 3D printers can then be supported by the 3D Printing Summer School graduates of the program and the university can be confident that the important knowledge is correctly being transferred to their students. Future Summer Schools are planned, possibly even on a larger scale since the feedback has been so positive. The number of participants has already doubled and the number of supervisors or experts will also be adjusted accordingly. Because of the success of the program, Aachen University has many 3D printers. Laura Thurn sums it up, “We now have a really small army of German RepRap 3D printers here! German RepRap was our favorite from the very start because everything is so compact. GRR also always responded very quickly and provided support if parts were faulty or missing. You can really rely on them.”
More information about the 3D Printing Summer School can be found at- https://www.fh-aachen.de/fachbereiche/maschinenbau-und-mechatronik/international/3d-printing-summer-school/
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