TTU iMakerSpace Shares Best Practices For Makerspaces And Work

The Maker Movement and the spawning of “MakerSpaces” around the world is still actively growing, despite COVID-19 and other obstacles to meeting in person. According to Dr. Ismail Fidan at Tennessee Tech University (TTU) and a team of authors (profiles linked below) publishing in Technologies journal, iMakerSpace Best Practices for Shaping the 21st Century Workforce, the TTU iMakerSpace became an essential part of their educational process. 


What Is A Makerspace?

“Making” is not new. Most, if not all, cultures have some heritage of inventing, creating, modifying, repairing, enhancing products or something built by a person. Often, it is labeled as the Do-it-yourself (DIY) trend. Not too long ago, “Shop” class served as a place for people who liked to make things; it might have been wood shop, metal shop, or art class. When those programs experienced financial cutbacks, a vacuum grew, and the maker movement took its place, in many ways. Often, this was one or more people working in a garage or empty space that slowly filled with machines, newer machines, such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines (consider them an automated wood or metal router that follows computer directions on where and how to cut an object). 

These new spaces, Maker Spaces, started to pop up in for-profit companies, non-profit corporations, organizations affiliated with or hosted within schools, universities or libraries, and more. The authors point out: “They are collaborative environments inside a university, school, library or dedicated public or private facility for learning, exploring, making and sharing, that use high-tech to no tech tools.”

Although many people consider a library a place for only books, that has not been the case for many years. Libraries are far more nimble and responsive to their communities and the authors cite another article: Change in the making: Makerspaces and the ever-changing landscape of libraries by Heather Moorefield-Lang, an associate professor in the Library & Information Science (LIS) Department at University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), who studies makerspaces within the library systems and how they can succeed and continue to change with the times. 

In the Technologies article findings, “MakerSpaces are becoming an essential part of post-secondary education in supporting educational delivery. Their contribution to curricular and extracurricular delivery, hands-on learning skills and creativity is reported to be high. The iMakerSpace model focused on innovative workforce development in several curricular and extracurricular settings and proved that it has been very well received by students and educators, even under COVID-19 outbreak restrictions. Although there is still a need for more diverse manufacturing equipment, such as laser cutting machines, the reported activities and innovations of the iMakerSpace were proven to be beneficial to the users, and they are effective in engaging students and sustaining operations.”

The article is a valuable primer on the maker movement, makerspaces within a variety of communities, including public libraries, higher education, community centers, and occasionally on corporate campuses. Makerspaces, as the authors highlight throughout, are spaces where students and members have “an opportunity to participate in developing innovative projects… are empowered to use collaborative facilities and social connections, in addition to conventional instructional guidance and technical facilities to explore innovation.”

The authors surveyed participants to determine what makerspace users found the most beneficial to them, including, Workforce training, professional growth, networking, club activities, studying, and fabricating/3D printing. 

COVID-19 slowed the in-person visits to the TTU iMakerSpace, but it did not slow the amount of 3D prints submitted to the space; in fact, the authors report that the number of prints actually saw a slight increase over the previous months, largely due to an increase in communication between college departments. 

The space supports nearby and regional companies with small-scale parts, professors fabricate parts for research projects, and students design and prototype various products as they explore entrepreneurship and innovation. According to the article, “‘Tech Tables’ helped students to develop a product with a small-scale sustainability model. They were designed and fabricated to latch onto the side of [dormitory] beds and provide a handy charging station for cell phones and other personal effects. They are sold for USD 10 at the iMakerSpace and help fund the space. Image below. 

The Maker Movement and the growth in makerspaces might appear to have slowed down thanks to the pandemic, but that is not the case. Makerspaces are vibrant, still-growing, and adapting to the maker’s, the creator’s, needs and wants. Tenn Tech with its iMakerSpace is one of many leading the way to help other schools and libraries to keep guiding students to learn in what some consider non-traditional ways. This UNCG image on that school’s makerspace page captures the essence of what Dr. Ismail Fidan and team found in their research: “Not all individuals are able to learn from books; We need these hands-on opportunities for students to tinker and explore.”

Additional Resources You Can Use:

UNCG Exploratorium : Makerspaces

Drexel University report on “Making Culture”

Laura Fleming’s book: The Kickstart Guide to Making GREAT Makerspaces (no affiliate links)

Edmonds College, home of the NSF TEAMM project that publishes AM News, has a student and community makerspace, The Facility, that serves in a similar way as iMakerSpace and learned from its example. 

Wohlers Report 2021 Finds 7.5% Growth in Additive Manufacturing Industry Despite Pandemic

Keeping up with technology trends of any type is no easy feat, but maintaining pace with additive manufacturing would be near impossible without the help of the annual industry-leading report on additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing from Wohlers Associates, a TEAMM Coordination Network partner.

In the Wohlers Report 2021, now in its 26th year, is a detailed look at the trends, perspectives, and forecasts that executives and educators find essential for decision making, education, and knowledge acceleration. The report gives readers new to AM a comprehensive understanding of the technology and industry. Veterans of the technology benefit from up-to-date information on growth, recent trends, and important developments worldwide.

Wohlers Report 2021

This year’s 375-page report discusses the impact of COVID-19 on the AM industry. Even with the pandemic, Wohlers Associates found industry expansion of 7.5 percent to nearly $12.8 billion in 2020. Growth was down considerably, compared to average growth of 27.4% over the previous 10 years. 

Most established manufacturers of AM systems saw a decline in equipment sales, but many less-established companies grew in 2020. An increase in business by AM service providers supported industry wide growth. The following chart shows 7.1% growth from independent service providers worldwide, resulting in nearly $5.3 billion of revenue from this group.

Dr. Ismail Fidan, Professor in Manufacturing and Engineering Technology at Tennessee Tech University, is an associate author of Wohlers Report 2021. He focuses on Academic activities and capabilities, and in the section, he highlights the work of over 130 institutions and 15 research institutes, some examples:

  • “Somerset Community College in Kentucky initiated a new AM project called the Rapid Response Additive Manufacturing Initiative (RRAMI). It involved a statewide rapid response network capable of manufacturing critical supplies in the event of future emergencies.” We shared an RRAMI update on LinkedIn related to our AM News social media efforts.
  • “Five Louisiana universities have been awarded a $20 million grant from the National Science Foundation to transform AM research and education in Louisiana.” 
  • “The National Institute of Standards and Technology awarded nearly 4 million to Georgia Tech, the University of Texas at El Paso, Purdue University, and Northeastern University. The grant is to advance the competitive competitiveness of metal AM companies in the U.S.”

In addition to the academic section (and the rest of the regular comprehensive report sections), there are new and expanded features in Wohlers Report 2021:

  • 3D printing of food, medicine, and electronics
  • Pricing of metals and polymers and the hidden costs of AM
  • Methods of AM part inspection
  • Pandemic’s impact on the AM industry
  • Compilation of expert reports from 34 countries
  • Tables of AM systems, software tools, service providers, and third-party materials

Of course, at TEAMM as well as MatEdU, we are particularly interested in the materials science and technician side of the industry and Wohlers Report 2021 has a dedicated section, 40-plus pages, on Materials and Processes. In the materials section, are explanations of the latest material processes, such as, vat photopolymerization, powder bed fusion, material jetting, binder jetting, and directed energy deposition, among others. There are deep dives into polymers, graphene and other nanomaterials, new polymer products as well as metal powders for metal AM. The section also explores various 3rd party material producers and talks about the Senvol public database of AM systems and materials.

If you are looking to understand the industry and its many fast-moving parts, Wohlers Report 2021 is a strong way to start (and finish). Read more about Wohlers Associates here.

Challenges And Opportunities In Medical Device Additive Manufacturing

The TTU Golden Eagle Additively Innovative Lecture Series is always packed with powerful insights and dynamic, experienced speakers (most of who are often professors involved with teaching about manufacturing and 3D printing / Additive Manufacturing – AM). This Spring 2021 Series is no exception. 

The first two lectures in Spring 2021 have been highlighting design, AM design trends, and design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM), but next week’s talk on shifts to the Challenges of Additive Manufacturing in the Medical Device Industry with Dr. Gaffar Gailani, Professor & Director of the Center of Medical Devices & Additive Manufacturing, in the Dept. of Mechanical Engineering Tech at the New York City College of Technology (also known as “City Tech,” the senior college within the City University of New York). 

Anyone can attend this free lecture, from anywhere via the Zoom video platform: at 11AM Central Time on Thursday, April 1.

Medical Device 3D Printing from Dr. Gaffar Gailani presentation at the TTU Spring Series 2021

Dr. Gaffar will be sharing about opportunities and obstacles for Medical Device AM. With his deep interest in Porous Media, Bone Biomechanics, and Biomaterials, this is sure to be a presentation that captures a wide range of students and faculty as well as entrepreneurs, researchers, and medical professionals. Some of the known challenges in Medical Device AM: 

  • Material Properties (Isotropy vs. anisotropy, Strength) what parameters are required to produce the desired material properties.
  • Motivation to use AM ( Speed, Complexity solver, Cost, Customization,…etc)
  • Optimization of AM for four critical factors
  • Cost calculation for large production.
  • Sterilization (polymers)

On his website and in a brief interview, Dr. Gaffar explained “the United States remains the largest medical device market in the world with a market size of around $110 billion (2016 figures). There are more than 6,500 medical device companies in the U.S., mostly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Medical device companies are located throughout the country but the states with the highest number of companies include California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Michigan.”

You can read Dr. Gaffar Gailani Bio page at City Tech here or explore the Center Of Medical Devices and Additive Manufacturing (CMDAM) where he is the Founder and Director.

If you are interested in design or DfAM, you can read more about the TTU Golden Eagle Additively Innovative Lecture Spring 2021 Series that began with Dr. Jennifer Loy from Deakin University in Australia: 3D Printing Product Development Decisions with Dr. Jennifer Loy. The second talk was: Design Trends For Additive Manufacturing From Dr. Patrick Pradel at the Design for Digital Fabrication Research Group (D4DF) at the Loughborough Design School in the UK.

Please visit the College of Engineering at Tennessee Tech page for all the details on the Golden Eagle Additively Innovative Lecture Series for Spring 2021.

Design Trends For Additive Manufacturing From Dr. Patrick Pradel

TTU Golden Eagle Additively Innovative Lecture Series presents…

On March 11, Dr. Patrick Pradel from Loughborough University, United Kingdom, will present on the Current State of Design for AM Education via the Tennessee Tech additive manufacturing lecture series.

Join from anywhere, via the Zoom video platform: at 11AM Central Time on Thursday, March 11.

Last month, the TTU Golden Eagle Additively Innovative Lecture Spring 2021 Series began with Dr. Jennifer Loy: 3D Printing Product Development Decisions with Dr. Jennifer Loy. Dr. Loy opened with the unique capabilities of additive manufacturing (AM), then shared examples and tips on “how manufacturers could approach integrating the technology into their business from a product design point of view.”

In January 2016, Dr Pradel joined the Design for Digital Fabrication Research Group (D4DF) at the Loughborough Design School as a research associate and is currently working on an EPSRC funded Network project on Design for Additive Manufacturing (Design for AM-Net – Additive Manufacturing Network). The DfAM Network is a collaborative effort between Loughborough University and Lancaster University to connect the UK DfAM community. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the main UK government agency for funding research and training in engineering and the physical sciences.

Thanks to Patrick’s overall research in design and AM, across nearly two decades of product design and manufacturing, he will be sharing current trends and opportunities for students and faculty interested in the field. Read Dr. Pradel’s full bio on LinkedIn and his Loughborough University profile page.

Please visit the College of Engineering at Tennessee Tech page for all the details on the Golden Eagle Additively Innovative Lecture Series for Spring 2021.

3D Printing Product Development Decisions with Dr. Jennifer Loy

Dr. Jennifer Loy presents at the TTU Golden Eagle Additively Innovative Lecture Series

On Feb 18, Dr. Jennifer Loy from Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, will present the 3D Printing Product Development Decisions webinar via the Tennessee Tech additive manufacturing lecture series.

Join from anywhere, via the Zoom video platform: at 11AM Central Time on Thursday, February 18.

Each semester, Dr. Ismail Fidan and team coordinate the well-respected TTU Golden Eagle Additively Innovative Lecture Series. The Spring 2021 series kicks off with Professor Jennifer Loy who has taught industrial and product design for many years, and began her career in manufacturing when efficiencies were driven by standardization, but is now a convert to the unique capabilities of additive manufacturing (AM), presenting in this talk starting points on how manufacturers could approach integrating the technology into their business from a product design point of view.

Jennifer will share tips to help existing and new businesses understand what to 3D print, where it could be appropriate for them, and when it is not. Many businesses are finding that logic built up through years of conventional manufacturing practice and process no longer applies and it can be problematic when trying to reach an objective decision on what to make with AM and how to integrate it into production and business practice. Jennifer believes that in order for technology adoption to be successful, our understanding has to move beyond engineering to product design, production practice and logistics.

The aim of this short, illustrated presentation is to provide some initial guidance for a company considering adopting AM and starting points for evaluating product design options. These starting points and practical, realistic strategies and considerations are also the subject of a future book, going into greater depth, due to be published by Routledge in 2022.

Professor Loy introduced additive manufacturing into product design at Griffith university, initially at third year, then second and finally first year as she became convinced that to exploit its characteristics, product designers needed to explore its capabilities prior to those of conventional manufacturing. Jennifer is now Professor of Additive Manufacturing in the School of Engineering at Deakin University, Australia, where she leads a Masters’ specialization in AM.

Read the full bio and published works of Professor Jennifer Loy or the research center where she is active: Deakin Digital Design and Engineering Centre (3DEC).

If you are interested in the rest of the series, please visit the College of Engineering at Tennessee Tech page for the Golden Eagle Additively Innovative Lecture Series for Spring 2021.