September 24, 2013

Finding Common Ground in Rapid Prototyping

Students recently showcased their work, which ranged from a crab to a centaur, created in an interdisciplinary course on rapid prototyping taught by professors Peter Rourke (Mechanical Engineering) and Simon Williamson (Industrial Design). Rourke and Williamson had taught elements of rapid prototyping—assembling something made entirely of parts created with a 3D printer— in their courses for years. According to the professors, the purpose of the course was to get mechanical engineers and industrial designers to experience elements of rapid prototyping that they are not normally exposed to.

“The mechanicals were able to see the design while it was happening, and got to contribute to the design, something they don’t do a lot,” Rourke said. “The idea was to show the engineers design work, what the thought process is, and the challenges involved with that, and to show designers the obstacles and limitations that the engineers work with.”

Students were divided into groups of four or five, with each team comprised of students from both mechanical engineering and industrial design. Each team not only had to follow basic guidelines, such as size and shape, but also had to incorporate the various processes taught throughout the course, such as casting, machining, rapid prototyping, and fabricating. Assistant Professor Stephen Chomyszak (Mechanical Engineering and Technology) aided the students throughout the printing and assembling process.

The course challenged students by providing them with a more hands-on experience than a typical classroom environment would allow.

“We thought it would put purpose to what they normally do,” Williamson said. “Now they had one product where they had to think about the whole, as opposed to a bunch of little exercises. In the real world, this is how companies work.”

The professors taught the course during the summer semester, and the student exhibit took place in the library in August.  They both expressed interest in teaching the course again, citing the overwhelming positive feedback from the students that were involved.

“[The professors] provided a fun and creative learning environment and I hope they get the opportunity to improve on and share that experience with more students in the future,” said Thomas Cloutier, Industrial Design ’14. “If this course was offered again in the spring, I would be the first one in line to sign up.”

Check out the students’ projects below, or view our recent video for more on 3-D printing at Wentworth.

© Wentworth Institute of Technology   |   550 Huntington Avenue   |   Boston, MA 02115   |   617-989-4590