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Students and Their Bright Ideas

Meet Ben. He’s not your average student. Ben is a freshman at the U, a computer science major, and the dad of a 2-year-old boy named Charles-Winston. And Ben has already developed a product for the open source community – a self-replicating 3D printer.

That’s right – it’s a 3D printer that can reproduce itself … and lots of other things. Called the Dollo 3D Printer, this device can be used at home to manufacture just about anything a person would ever need. This includes a Computer Numerical Control (CNC Mill) and a laser cutter, both of which can be used with the Dollo printer. And what’s more, the Dollo is self-repairing and self-upgrading.

Does this sound incredible to you?

Let Ben explain: “We noticed that everyone thinks 3D printers are complicated, and that’s because up until now they have been. All current printers have a lot of metal rods, a ton of different screws that are easy to mix up, and if you try to build one yourself, it would take a couple of days to assemble. Dollo can be assembled in under an hour. Dollo 3D has 15 different printed parts, and only 24 screws. This also helped us with our goal of being able to self-scale.”

And where did the idea start?

Ben and his father first got involved in the RepRap community, a group that supports the manufacturing of self-replicating machines that are made freely available to the public.

“My dad got me started on programming when I was seven,” explains Ben. “So, I’ve always been interested in this field. When 3D printing first came to the DIY community, I knew there must be a way to create a 3D printer by actually using a 3D printer…”

Click the image above for more info.

And then Ben connected with TJ Ferrill in the library’s Knowledge Commons. TJ, Assistant Head of Creative Spaces in the library’s Creativity & Innovation Services department, initiates technology-based programs for students. He acquires equipment such as 3D scanners and printers, and provides teaching and support so that students can use the technology in their coursework.

“Fortunate for us, Ben spends a lot of time here in the library using our 3D scanners, 3D printers, and toying with ideas,” says TJ Ferrill, Assistant Head of Creative Spaces. “Ben has an expansive knowledge of the whole realm of 3D scanning and printing technology. I think we learn as much from Ben as Ben learns from us.”


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