Summer School in South Africa: PRotos V3 in Operation for Research & Development

Research and development in the field of additive manufacturing – Aachen University of Applied Sciences is providing students with an important education in 3D printing so that they are optimally prepared forSummer School in South Africa: PRotos V3 in Operation for Research & Development their professional life after their studies. The extensive theoretical approach to 3D technology together with hands-on experience is a combination which is hardly provided in a similar way in the teaching of engineering. The PRotos V3 3D printer from German RepRap has been offering excellent service for years and is used in several projects to bring 3D technology closer to people.

The Aachen University of Applied Sciences was founded in 1971 and is one of the largest and most important universities of applied sciences in Germany. It has over 13,000 students and almost 2000 graduates per year, 10 faculties, over 70 courses, nine institutes and three private research institutes, as well as four competence platforms at the two sites in Aachen and Jülich. Emphasis is placed on the STEM subjects, i.e. subjects in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (as well as the continuously growing areas of business studies and design. The Aachen University of Applied Sciences ordered its first 3D printer from German RepRap GmbH in 2015. This was a PRotos V3 printer kit, which is particularly used for research and development in the field of 3D printing. Since 2010 a team of young technical enthusiasts, consisting of around 20 employees, student assistants and lecturers has formed up in the Goethestraße at the Aachen University of Applied Sciences to establish the GoetheLab for Additive Manufacturing. The key focus of this group is on additive manufacturing, centered on areas such as material and feasibility studies, machine and process development, consulting and training, as well as samples production, customer commissioned research and much more. These projects focus on 3D printing, which is now being used in all sectors due to the wide range of benefits possible.

Laura Thurn is project engineer at the Aachen University of Applied Sciences and head of the Plastics department at the GoetheLab for Additive Manufacturing (faculty of mechanical engineering and mechatronics). Her field of activities includes plastics technology as well as the area of Additive Manufacturing / Generative production processes. “3D printing is now being used in a wide range of areas including tool and mold building, the automotive industry, aerospace technology, medical technology and many more. The benefits are clearly relevant. Previously, the production of many prototypes, small batches or individual items was not economically viable. This is completely different with 3D printing. It increases the possibility for individualization and the geometrical design freedom required for the production of complex components,” Laura Thurn explains. Since May last year, there is also another 3D printing-related project that is helping to bring an extensive theoretical approach to 3D technology combined with practical experience closer to all those with a technical interest in this field. The project is called the 3D Printing Summer School and has already been very successful in Germany. The first Summer School was held at the beginning of the year in Pretoria, South Africa, at the TUT University, a cooperation university of the Aachen University of Applied Sciences.

Summer School project 2016 in Pretoria, South Africa Several German RepRap PRotos V3 3D printers were bought by the Aachen University of Applied Sciences beforehand and shipped to South Africa to be used for the project. The TUT University intends to set up an innovation center for the Additive Manufacturing area. The Summer School Project, which was the starter event, was an enormous success. In all, 25-30 participants, including university students and also employees enjoyed working with the German RepRap 3D printers over 5 days. Laura Thurn also attended in Pretoria, which is near Johannesburg: “We firstly talked generally about the subject of 3D printing, its applications and the processes involved. This also included the FDM process, i.e. plastics applications, which was then covered in detail. CAD was then discussed – how proprietary technical drawings can be designed and produced, and what requirements had to be observed.” The assembly of the German RepRap 3D printer also takes up a major part. The PRotos V3 3D printers consist initially of printer kits and are assembled together with the participants in a hands-on workshop.

Hands-on workshop, assembled PRotos V3 Laura Thurn is delighted: “We are delighted with the German RepRap printer kits! Especially the assembly of the 3D printers together is very useful for working with the machine later and understanding the technology.” Each team of 3-4 participants was looked after by an expert. Due to the several registrations at the end some teams in Africa even consisted of up to 6 people. “This works really well. We are able to answer all the questions directly and an advisor is at hand for each team for guidance and assistance,” a delighted Laura Thurn explains. The participants are also allowed to bring their own 3D print projects to the Summer School – in line with the motto of the summer school “Materialize your own ideas – if you can image it – you can print it!” At the end of the five days each participant is given a certificate for the 3D print seminar.

The German RepRap PRotos V3 in operation The theoretical information passed on, combined with the hand-on experience gained, provided the most important basis for understanding the 3D technology, using it correctly and mastering it also on their own after the summer school. Information is passed on that is rarely taught in engineering courses. The German RepRap 3D printers are well established at the TUT University Pretoria. Laura Thurn explains: “The boys and girls from the mechanical engineering faculty who have taken part in the project are currently being trained as tutors and are then deployed accordingly.” The other courses with the 3D printers can therefore be supported and accompanied, so that the important knowledge transfer can be ensured. “It’s no use assembling a 3D printer if you don’t have anyone who has the necessary know-how. The knowledge transfer is a really important issue. Work is therefore currently in progress to regularly set up new seminars and courses on the subject of 3D printing. So-called International Weeks are already provided, which we hold twice a year in the form of workshops at the TUT university,” Laura Thurn continues, “TUT also offers further seminars which cover the software for the 3D printers.”

Further Summer Schools are planned, possibly on an even larger scale since the feedback has been extremely positive. The number of participants will be doubled, resulting in 50-60 participants per course. The number of supervisors or experts will also be adjusted accordingly. The laboratory at the Aachen University of Applied Sciences now has very many 3D printers. “We now have a really small army of German RepRap 3D printers here! Different kits are also being used several times. German RepRap was our favorite from the very start because everything is so compact. German RepRap also always responded very quickly and provided support if parts were faulty or missing. You can really rely on them,” Laura Thurn sums up.