"It's kind of misnamed because it doesn't actually print the way normal printers do," says Jackson Prep Freshman Benjamin Wilkinson.
It uses strands of plastic, melted and manipulated to form any 3D object you can think of, limited in size only by the size of the printer itself.
Jackson Prep has purchased the machine, called a MakerBot Replicator 2X. They've had it for three weeks.
Wilkinson, and Reed Clay, who just graduated, have taken the reins in learning its capabilities. For practice, Wilkinson has been making cubes that he first designs on a computer program called Google Sketch Up. The image is then dumped into another program that tells the replicator how to build it. Then it's sent to the replicator to render.
The one-inch-square cubes are "printed" in less than an hour. A more sophisticated object would take longer.
"Depending on how fast you want it to print, you can make (your object) a little less precise," Clay explains.
Science Department Chair Marsha Hobbs says the students will use the device to make parts for their robotics program. But it could also be used in art, math, and other aspects of engineering.
"Learning how to be creative, how to make things. I think that's gonna be important in our society as we move forward," Hobbs says.
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