New Dimensions

Emory enters the realm of 3-D printing

Robin Horton
Kay Hinton

In the computing center on the second floor of Cox Hall, where students study, work, surf, and game, sounds coming from an adjacent room are reminiscent of the noisy daisy wheel printers of the 1970s and 1980s. 

But there’s nothing old school about what’s happening here: this is the modern voodoo of 3-D printing. 

The lab is a project of Emory’s Academic Technology Services, which is part of Libraries and Information Technology. Three printers extrude soft but solid plastic—“like frosting on a cupcake”—to create objects, building them up from the bottom layer to the top. A fourth printer uses a liquid resin with a laser to quickly cure items that turn out with smoother surfaces and greater detail. Elishuwon Mitchell 16C, a junior majoring in computer science and minoring in physics, explains that the printers are hooked to a computer with programs that offer a seemingly infinite variety of objects, from castles to horses to unspecific designs. 

“We have been soliciting faculty who teach various things to come up with ways to utilize this as a service,” says Robin Horton, who runs the lab. Projects related to anatomy and biology are among the most common for the 3-D printing lab. “A lot of the neuroscience students have been through here, printing neurons and full brains and things of that nature.” 

The facility has been dubbed TechLab, and its mission is broader than 3-D printing, says Horton. "The purpose of this space was to bring in new technology and see how we can apply it to academic life—whether it’s a new kind of smart board, 3-D scanning, 3-D printing, or some other technology,” he says. “There are all kinds of fantastical things that are happening. We are hoping to be able to give everyone a chance to make their own fantasies realities.”—Leslie King

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