NYU Offering 3D Printing Course to the Public
These figurines were designed by NYU student Krystle Ruberto and printed at the university's Center for Advanced Digital Applications.
CREDIT: NYU Center for Advanced Digital Applications; Krystle Ruberto
New York University is offering an intensive three-week class in 3D printing that aims to teach not only the basics of 3D printing, but also how to navigate the often complex field of different printer capabilities, materials, design software and more.
3D printers have been around since the 1980s. In the past few years, however, 3D printing has become a pop culture buzzword and more: NASA has used 3D-printing methods to build spacecraft parts, and biologists recently succeeded in creating the first 3D-printed ear.
As the technology becomes more affordable, more small businesses and artists are incorporating it into their process. This NYU course, entitled "3D Printing: Rapid Prototyping Intensive," is aimed at bringing the technical skill associated with 3D printing to a broad swath of people, from digital artists to entrepreneurs to hobbyists.
The professors say the course isn't just about the mechanics of 3D printing. "We teach how to conceptualize ideas before even coming to the computer," said Erol Gunduz, who is co-teaching the course. [See also: How 3D Printing Could Become Commonplace]
"There's a lot that goes into [3D printing]," said professor Patricia Heard-Greene, the director of NYU's Center for Advanced Digital Applications. "The final product is not the end of the story. Think about the materials, the process, the target audience … that's true whether you're a product designer creating a jewelry line or a clothing line or a game [developer] or a toy designer."
Heard-Greene said that "rapid prototyping," as the process is sometimes called, allows digital artists to more easily share their work and clients to more easily assess it and suggest modifications.
"Clients tend to have a hard time assessing a design when it's on a screen, even if they've been doing it for years," said Gunduz, who has a background in sculpting and digital animation. "So there's a big push to 3D print everything just for design review."
The ability to turn a digital design into a physical prototype at any stage of development is one of 3D printing's biggest strengths, Gunduz and Heard-Greene said.
"In our curriculum we're teaching conceptualization, surfacing, rendering — we’re teaching students to be able to visualize form to communicate to an audience," Heard-Greene said.
So even if students' end goals don't directly relate to 3D printing — if they're designing a video game, for example — the ability to 3D print their designs as they go helps them to conceptualize their work as well as communicate it to their co-workers.
"It's amazing how much can come out of this very condensed set of knowledge," Gunduz said of 3D printing's practical applications. "It's almost like this node that students learn and then can plug anything into."
The professors added that they intend to keep the class as open-ended and student-oriented as possible to give participants the chance to pursue original ideas.
"In my opinion anything is possible," Heard-Greene said. She compared the potential of 3D printers to "replicators," the fictional technology made famous by "Star Trek" for conjuring Captain Picard's favorite drink. "Earl Grey tea? What kind of mug do you want it in?" she said.
You have to be in New York City for the course, but you don't have to be an NYU student to apply: the course is open-enrollment, and costs $3,155. You can read more about the course at NYU's Center for Advanced Digital Applications website.