News - 3D Printing Technology Provides Opportunities for New Life, Learning and Hope

3D Printing Technology Provides Opportunities for New Life, Learning and Hope

3D Printing Technology Brings Bock Sculptures to Life

Pediatric cardiologist Dr. Matthew Bramlet ’96 has applied 3D printing techniques to revolutionize the treatment of congenital heart disease in children. His groundbreaking work producing exact copies of patients’ hearts has improved surgery outcomes at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria.

In order to prepare Greenville College students for careers that make use of similar emerging technologies, GC has recently purchased two 3D printers. George Peters, associate professor and chair of the mathematics department, oversaw the use of one during the Greenville College Summer Research Experience (GC-SRE). Peters says, “Having exposure to the 3D printers can help students stretch their vision as to what is possible.”

Makerbot Replicator 2x

Jacob Amundson, associate professor of art and digital media, purchased and set up the second 3D printer, a Makerbot Replicator 2X. Matt Bernico '11, senior help desk technician and adjunct instructor, has experimented with the Makerbot Replicator 2X and used it to share digital reproductions of works of art. Inspired by the Smithsonian X 3D program, Bernico began making scans and 3D models of the sculptures on display in GC’s Richard S. Bock Sculpture Museum. The project has proved useful for Bernico as he works toward a doctorate in media and communication from the European Graduate School.

“My thesis is about the impossibility of reproduction and the problems of archivization: when you reproduce a piece you’re really making something entirely new,” he says. “When you push an object into the digital sphere you’re making a piece with a very precise temporal and spatial qualities, something altogether different. I think the real challenge with 3D printing will be in theorizing what the infinite reproducibility of a 3D printer means for us culturally, economically and politically.”

Patrick Holler '11, a fellow IT support technician, works with Bernico on the Greenville College 3D Digitization Project, which has gained support from the Greenville College IT department and Sharon Grimes, art professor and curator of the Bock Museum.

Holler explains his enthusiasm for the project: “We think the project is a great way to share the Bock collection beyond the Greenville community, with anyone who has access to the Internet.”

Bernico and Holler made the first scans with video game equipment, an Xbox Kinect. The process was tedious and inefficient, but their time and effort spent scanning Bock’s sculpture allowed them to print an excellent 3D model. “Burritt2” was enough to win support from the IT department in the form of scanning equipment designed specifically for 3D printing, a scanner called 3D Sense.

Burrit by Greenville College 3D Scans on Sketchfab

“The quality of the 3D models we have been able to create are on par with what the Smithsonian has done,” says Holler. “It’s amazing that we have been able to do a project like this here at Greenville College.”

Though viewing 3D scans of Bock’s sculptures online cannot replace the experience of viewing them in person, nor is it intended to, the project opens up different possibilities for experiencing art in digital contexts.

Bernico summarizes the technology’s relevance to today’s students, saying, “If we’re serious about preparing students for the future they need a strong grounding in both relevant theory and practice. I think access to 3D printers are important, but a theory that helps students grapple with technology overall is just as necessary.”

Watch a video interview with Dr. Matthew Bramlet '96.

View Greenville College's 3D scans on SketchFab.


This article was originally featured as a web extra for the Fall 2014 edition of The RECORD.

This story was published on October 03, 2014

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