Last Wednesday, Jan. 14, the Student Senate approved the Tech Club's petition for the acquisition of the Cube 3, a new 3D printer.
In Fall 2013, the Tech Club's president, John Holland, appealed to Student Senate for the funding of Covenant's first 3D printer. After receiving an amount less than what he had asked for, Holland decided to use the money he had been given to buy a different printer—a Solidoodle 2 that did not include important things such as a warranty or customer support. Although this purchase was made with the best of intentions, it caused the Tech Club some problems due to its age and relative cheapness. The team spent a lot of their time trying to fix the printer instead of actually using it, and eventually it was declared obsolete.
The Cube 3, however, will have a warranty and customer support, and is expected to last at least 5 years. This 3D printer will have the ability to take plastic and melt it to print a solid object on a 6”x 6”x6” print bed. According to Nick Gilbert, the current president of the Tech Club, the entire student body will have access to it with certain limitations.
In order to use the printer, one must be accustomed to the Cubify software that can be run on Apple and Windows software and even through mobile phones. . Gilbert thinks there may be two options to resolve this: either students will try to learn how to use the software, or they will be able to email a printing request to the Tech Club's website. From there, computer science work study students will be responsible for getting the prints to people. Gilbert would personally like people to see the process of the printer for themselves, but he notes that there are still some details that need to be figured out.
"I think that by having experience with this technology, Covenant students will have an edge when this stuff becomes really mainstream," Gilbert said, describing what he believes is the student body's main benefit from the Cube 3. "3D printing in the future is going to be an appliance. Five years down the road when this is a consumer-level product, it can be used to solve the issue of needing parts that aren't produced anymore, such as old car parts."
According to student body president Harris Stevens, the entire Student Senate "was excited about getting a new printer and the budget was approved unanimously." Stevens agrees with Gilbert's opinion regarding students being involved with current technology. "Based on what I've read and seen, 3D printing is going to be increasingly important in our society so exposing students to it early will give them an opportunity to learn about important new technology and stay relevant rather than falling behind," says Stevens. "Whether it's learning the intricacies of the hardware or software for students pursuing tech careers or just learning how to operate the machine for the rest of the students, I think having a 3D printer on campus is widely beneficial."
Gilbert expects that the printer will be on campus within the next month, and after computer science work study students and the Tech Club learn the software, it will be open for all of campus to use.