COLUMBIA - Students at the University of Missouri have purchased a new and innovative tool to help advance into the future of three-dimensional, or 3D, printing.
For all Star Trek fans who are familiar with the replicator used on the show to manufacture items instantly, the 3D Print Club at Mizzou now has funding to tinker with a variety of 3D objects printed right in the lab.
"One of the first things I noticed when I started this club is when we were telling people about it, and a girl described this technology as magic, which was foreign to us because we knew exactly how it worked, but it kinda put things into perspective," said 3D Print Club president Derek Provance.
Provance was new to this technology a couple years ago, too. He helped start the club at MU last year.
"A 3D printer works a lot like your two dimensional printers, your ink jet printers or your laser jet printers you have at home, except instead of printing or laying down ink and paper, they are putting material on layers and then they build each layer one on top of the other," said manager Mike Klote with the MU's prototype development facility.
Students learn to make a variety of objects, like a wrench or even a human aorta. The 3D Print Club started when Provance and another student learned to build their own printer. Now, with the money the club has raised, members can make purchases instead of printers to help the club expand.
"We recently purchased a Solidoodle 2 using club funds," said Provance. "It's the first professional printer that we own as a club now."
The club grew by word of mouth to about 250 members - and not just engineering students.
"It has exploded now and we have art students, business students that are really interested in it," said Klote.
The club hopes funding will explode too.
"So we are hoping to do print shops where we can set up kiosks on campus and have it to where people can scan themselves and then print their scan and sell it to them to use as fund-raising," said Provance.
"They have a lot of diversity in their club so that's a good thing and they are really going to expand and get a lot of new ideas and innovative thinking that was so I think they are on the right track," said Klote.
Members are hoping to create a functioning part of a human hand to give to someone in the community who requested the club's help.