The State University of New York at New Paltz is home to the world’s first MakerBot Innovation Center: a ground-floor room with 30 MakerBot Replicator 3D Printers. “3D printing is training students to think in a different way,” says Dan Freedman, dean of science and engineering at New Paltz. “If students come out of here knowing about 3D printing and different applications of it, it will give them a better chance of starting a career.”
The Innovation Center, which has a combination of MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printers and MakerBot Replicator 2X Experimental 3D Printers, is located in the Smiley Arts Building, and sculptors and jewelry designers have been flocking there since it opened in February. Engineers and scientists, whose sit across the quad, are also heavy users of the facility.
It’s not only college students at the center. Faculty from many disciplines and other New Paltz staff have attended sessions with MakerBot trainers. Local artists and manufacturers, as well as others who want to learn about 3D printing without pursuing a degree, can enroll in a two-semester program in digital design and fabrication. And New Paltz has plans to bring in students from local public schools. For bringing the community together, says Freedman, “the only thing similar is the gym.”
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The MakerBot Innovation Center at New Paltz is part of The Hudson Valley Advanced Manufacturing Center, a $1.5 million initiative to spur regional economic development. The advanced manufacturing center received $250,000 donations from a local venture-capital fund and a matching grant from the regional utility company. “It was the easiest donation this college has ever gotten,” says Freedman, “We were in the right place at the right time.”
“This is a technology that is just starting, and it’s going to become increasingly important,” says Freedman, who thinks that the university’s investment in 3D printing will make New Paltz the right place for budding artists and the engineers of tomorrow.
Katherine Wilson, a student in New Paltz’s renowned Metal program, says, “When I was looking for graduate schools, I was interested in what kind of technology was available.” Before opening the Innovation Center, New Paltz had a few MakerBot Replicator 3D Printers, and she was careful not to monopolize them. Access to an array of 30 3D printers has freed up Wilson to follow her imagination wherever it takes her.
Freedman adds, “I think we can attract some really outstanding students who are undecided between science-engineering and art and say to them, ‘You can pursue your interests in both areas, and we’re going to make it easier for you to do that.’”