Continuing Education

The Future is Now: An Introduction to 3D Modeling and Printing

Lead Introduction to 3D Modeling and Printing instructor Daniel Walsh and his assistant instructor Brandon Pomeroy are apostles for a burgeoning new technology. Like the amateur college rocket clubs of the early 1930s that evolved into Imagethe Jet Propulsion Laboratory and eventually took us to the moon, Pomeroy and Walsh have stepped onto the ground floor of an evolving science that will shape the look and feel of tomorrow.

Though both Pomeroy and Walsh converged on 3D printing technology while studying computer-assisted design (CAD) software at the University of Washington, they approached the field from different angles. “I got into 3D modeling as a hobby back in 2010 by using free open-source software and following YouTube tutorials,” says Walsh. “While attending the University of Washington I was introduced to more advanced engineering CAD software and began to encounter real-world applications of CAD technology.” In Pomeroy’s case, his interest was piqued upon his discovery of the UW 3D Printing Club. “The club focused on using 3D printers and building your own machines, and gave me a solid foundation in the technology,” says Pomeroy. “I have been modeling, building, and using 3D printers ever since!”

Both instructors realize that using any advanced design technology can be intimidating to the uninitiated, but believe those fears will be quickly allayed upon joining their class. “We often have people tell us that they couldn’t possibly make anything in 3D,” says Pomeroy.  “We want to show people that this barrier to entry isn’t nearly as insurmountable as one may think. Low cost (or even free) 3D modeling software has become available, and online resources can help you with any problems you may have. We want to give people the push necessary to be confident in 3D space.”

Additionally, both Pomeroy and Walsh feel assured the technology will do more to draw people in than scare them off. “The combination of 3D modeling and 3D printing gives everyone the ability to create,” says Walsh. “The Imagetechnology can be used to solve real-world problems like creating custom assistive devices to help disabled people, or even just to fix a broken stove dial. I want to teach this technology to others to empower them with tools to be creative.”

Pomeroy says the modeling software used in class is available for free online and is approachable and intuitive. “A person taking this class will need to have basic computer skills -- no other previous experience is necessary. In fact, we have created this class with the assumption that the students have no previous experience, and walk through the entire 3D modeling program step by step.”

In the first half of the class students will be guided through the “foundational features” of CAD 3D modeling: extrude, revolve, sweep and loft.  “These are all ways that we can transform a 2D sketch into a 3D model,” says Pomeroy. “By utilizing these four simple features, you can create nearly any mechanical part imaginable. We’ll cover what each feature does and how to properly use them in the first half of the class.”

In the second half of the class, the creative possibilities open up as students start realizing their two-dimensional models in 3D. “We’ve had students print mechanical parts made in a CAD program as well as replicas of famous statues that were 3D scanned and made available,” says Pomeroy. “What the student creates depends on the individual!”

For the layman, 3D modeling and printing technology was science fiction a mere decade ago, but Pomeroy says it has a few light years to travel before the stuff of film and television becomes a reality. “Unfortunately, we don’t see Star ImageTrek style replicators on the near horizons,” says Pomeroy. “We do, however, expect to see huge innovations in 3D printable materials, as well as the technology itself becoming more reliable and accessible. Desktop 3D printers are still fairly limited when it comes to what can be printed and how much maintenance they need. We’ve already seen an incredible amount of improvement in the last five years, and we’re sure that the next ten will be even more exciting.”

To Pomeroy and Walsh the possibilities of 3D printing and modeling technology are boundless and they cannot wait to share their knowledge and experience with students. "We hope that students will take away a desire to continue working with these technologies," says Pomerory. "While we provide an Introduction to 3D Modeling and Printing, there is always more to learn... we introduce some great resources that students can use to get started with 3D printing on their own!"

Learn more about Introduction to 3D Modeling and Printing.

Photo credit #1: Matt Jenkins_cc_2.0
Photo credt #2 & #3 Courtesy of Brandon Pomeroy