PM Experiment

3D Printing in Providence

A local group is printing the future, one model at a time


Over at AS220, a group of individuals calling themselves 3D Printing Providence (3DPPVD) are proving that the future is in fact now - and it’s all thanks to burgeoning 3D printer technology, which, according to 3DPPVD, may revolutionize how goods are crafted and distributed.

But let’s slow down a minute. What is 3D printing? And why does it matter?

In a nutshell, 3D printing is the process of manufacturing a 3-dimensional object from a digital model. Houses, toys, power tools - hell, even this very magazine you’re holding - can all be created via a 3D printer, so long as the printer is technologically capable and the digital model exact. (Which means, yes, you could in fact download a car. So take that, Motion Picture Association.)

As for 3DPPVD, these passionate individuals meet twice per month to utilize 3D printers and learn about this ever-expanding field. “When I first started [four years ago], 3D printing wasn’t a big deal,” says James Rutter, AS220’s lab manager. “You had to work on your own machine, fix your own drives and pulleys. It was a clumsy technology.”

As with anything technology-related, though, the industry quickly exploded. Soon the machines were more automated and less intimidating for the average individual. People grew more proficient, and thus printed products grew in popularity.

“The club meets the first Tuesday of every month, and it’s informal. What we say is, all members can come down and work, and we’ll have about ten members working on different projects. They’re socializing, just hanging out, no agenda, printing things.”

In addition, the club meets the second Wednesday of every month, and these, says, James, are the “formal meetings.” Each one focuses on a specific topic, pre- sentation or invited speaker, and the meetings are intended to teach members about the latest in 3D printing technology.

“These meetings will showcase one member (or a company or speaker) that has developed a certain thing that they’re sharing. It’s someone that has something to share with the 3D printer community.”

The whole point being, of course, to help spread information about this astonishing piece of equipment. Because let’s be real, the possibilities are ridiculous: Need a new car door handle? Print one. Need a new mouse? Print one. Need a 3D printer? Print one! (No really, you can.)

“We print all sorts of things. Our instructor gives the example that when he moved into his house, his water faucet handle was broken. So he moved in, set up a printer and printed out a water faucet handle. I like that, because it’s a practical example.”

James encourages individuals interested in the technology to first attend their informal Tuesday meetings, as it allows people to see 3D printing in action without getting bogged down by techno-babble. If still intrigued after that, pop in for their formal Wednesday meetings, to learn more about what 3D printing can do for the community at large. (For the impatient types, head right now to to see examples of what a 3D printer can create.) 31 Washington St831-9327 x203. Check online for meeting times and registration info.


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**** AS220 Labs is located at 131 Washington St using the Lucie Way entrance at the Mercantile Bldg.

**** AS220 Labs number is (401)-831-9327 x203 , the number at the end of the article is for AS220 FOO(D).

Saturday, January 18, 2014