On 17 February the class of 2014/2016 showcased their very own 3D printer at vocational college “Berufsbildenden Schule Technik” in Cloppenburg, Germany.
BBS Technik in Cloppenburg can now print its very own three-dimensional objects, such as a miniature Statue of Liberty. Students from Class FSM 2-1 developed a fully functional 3D printer on their own in just six months. The biggest challenges included finding the right materials for the fused deposition modelling (FDM), an additive manufacturing method that involves using a nozzle to apply thin layers of a material that subsequently hardens. The team decided to use a thermoplastic called PLA, which becomes soft and malleable when heated, so that it can be ejected from the printer head as a thin thread.
Expertise and the right technology
Programming the control system for the printer was an even bigger challenge, which Thomas Gruslak took on. Sensors are selected and actuators regulated by an Arduino microcontroller that is programmed with firmware specially adapted for the printer. This control system can be used to reliably execute the preprepared G-code of a component.
The students built the housing of the printer with Line 8 profiles from our MB Building Kit System. The profiles provide the necessary stability while the exceptional versatility of the system meant the students were free to design and build their printer as they wished. Thanks to the use of plexiglass panels, the workings of the printer can be seen in action on three sides. The team also installed a camera on the upper frame that can transmit pictures of the printing process to any monitor. As a result, all of the almost 300 people who attended the presentation were able to watch the production process as it happened.
Huge personal commitment
The project was kicked off in September 2015, starting a period of very hard work. The team took on a huge task in designing the printer, selecting the right components and developing a control system. That meant that besides their work and study, the students also had to invest a lot of their free time in the project in order to turn their theoretical design into a working model. It was the extraordinary ambition and motivation of the team that made this project possible.
When the project was exhibited at BBS, the professional and lively presentation given by Bernd Möddeken, Jan-Philipp Wilke, Michael Kühling, Thomas Gruslak and Christoph Hespe was met with enthusiastic applause from the 300 students and teachers in the audience. “The fact that the printer is fully functional and that we’ve managed to impress our fellow students makes all the hard work of the past few months worthwhile,” says Hespe. He and his colleagues are due to complete their studies as state-certified technicians soon and will then be taking their skills to future employers.
Training for teachers at vocational colleges
We don’t just get involved in specific projects. In October 2015, nine metalworking and mechatronics teachers from vocational colleges in Lower Saxony took part in a training course at our Siek branch in Hamburg. The course focused on the production of assemblies using modular aluminium profile systems. The teachers used their new-found know-how to develop educational materials that will help them cover the topic with their students in a practical, hands-on way. The pilot project proved very popular and is being repeated this year.