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The Garland Makerspace Discovery Group will be sending off our application to obtain our Certification of Formation as a nonprofit organization in the State of Texas this coming Wednesday.  Our name will be the “Garland Area Makerspace.”

Of course we are very excited about this giant step for our local community but we are looking ahead to the next step, which will be to promote and educate people regarding makerspaces, maker technologies, and what they offer communities. We want our community to be as excited about the possibilities offered by makerspaces as we are so they will join us in our collaborative effort to make our community and world a better place.

Ask three people what a makerspace is and you are likely to get three different responses.  Two things about makerspaces are certain: makerspaces are reshaping education and encouraging entrepreneurship in the USA and the world. They are cropping up everywhere all over the landscape. Many U.S. schools (grade schools and high schools alike) as well as public libraries now have makerspaces.  In fact, Garland Texas may have the largest makerspace in the world.  It's called the Gilbreath-Reed Technology Center which is designed exactly as a makerspace.  This facility, however is only available to Junior and Senior high school students in the Garland ISD.

Makerspaces with adult memberships are places where all kinds of makers come together under one roof:  from blacksmiths to those who use 3D printers to create prototypes.  These makers vary in expertise from the beginners to professionals who earn a living with their maker skills.  The physical structure of the makerspace as well as the necessity of sharing some of the same tools among various members from different disciplines is such that it naturally encourages collaboration—not only between those of the same discipline but also with those from different disciplines.  When diversity is added to the pot, all kinds of exciting and beneficial things can happen.

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3D PRINTERS

Among all the great tools and equipment available for makers, the Garland Area Makerspace will eventually have several 3D printers. A lot of people think that 3d printing is the latest technology when actually it has been around for more than 30 years.  Chuck Hall invented this type of additive manufacturing technology in 1983.   Born in 1939, Mr. Hall is even older than the Baby Boomer generation.

Why all the fuss about 3D Printers Now?

Since 3D printers have been around so long as an additive manufacturing tool, why are we just now hearing about them you might be asking.  The most likely explanation is that the patent on one of the most common 3D printing technologies, fused deposition modeling (FDM), expired in 2009. Until then, the only places where we could find a 3D printer would be in an industrial facility.  Now instead of $200,000 and more, the 3D printers have arrived to the consumer market for under $2,000 and their sales are growing.  According to Wohler’s Report 2015: Gartner:  In 2009 3D printer sales were 1, 816 compared to 232,336 in 2015.

How does 3D Printing work?

The process for 3D printing is an additive manufacturing process.  Things are built layer by fused layer.  Instead of ink, the printer uses various kinds of materials (plastic, metal, resin, stone, etc.) that are melted at high temperatures in the printer and then poured out in very thin layers onto the building deck of the printer.  The printer “knows” where to pour the material because it has received digital instructions from software in a computer that is communicating to the printer wirelessly or through a physical connection—just as your ink or laser printer knows what words or images to print on paper. 

The computer “talks” to the 3-D printer much in the same way that your computer “talks” to your printer to print out a page.  However instead of Word, 3D printers require software such as Auto-Cad that creates images, which are then sliced into layers for creating the three-dimensional object.  Also, just as you can scan photos and documents into your normal printer, you can scan real objects into your 3D printer—provided you have a 3D scanner.  To do this you place the object (such as a kitchen spatula) on your 3D scanner, scan it, and then send to print.

Who uses 3D technology now?

The medical and prosthesis field use 3D printing extensively.  For example, the majority of today’s hearing aids are 3-D printed.  Dentists use this technology to make things like retainers.  Aircraft manufacturers use 3D printing to make aircraft parts such as 3D print fuel nozzles.  Architects use 3D printing to create models.  Shoe manufacturers use this technology to print soles.  These are just a few examples.

Tiny Home fans take note: one of the most exciting examples of the potential I’ve seen for 3D printing in action is a home that was printed in less than 24 hours in Moscow.  This 409 square foot house features a hall, living room, bathroom and kitchen and cost $10,134.  Apis Cor and PIK collaborated on the design.  Below is another example of a Building on Demand (BOD).  This building is located in Copenhagen’s Nordhavn and was built in the spring of 2017.   

We may not be creating such large objects with the 3D printers in the Garland Area Makerspace right away, but who’s to say what the future will bring us?

CC BY-SA 4.0 – Touted as the first building in Europe made with 3D construction printing – spring 2017

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