Learn, Baby, Learn

New 3D technology, an expanded Haverstraw campus, among Rockland Community College’s initiatives

BY KATHY KAHN
For The Rockland Times

Dr. Cliff Wood, president of Rockland Community College, plans to add this 3D printer—and the technical classes to instruct users—at the campus in Suffern and the expanded extension in Haverstraw
Dr. Cliff Wood, president of Rockland Community College, plans to add this 3D printer—and the technical classes to instruct users—at the campus in Suffern and the expanded extension in Haverstraw

No, you have not entered the “Twilight Zone,” though much of today’s technology seems so futuristic, many of us can’t seem to wrap our arms around it—yet.

3D printing, once considered the stuff science fiction stories and films were made of, is very real and growing in popularity, and will be coming to a school or office near you– if it isn’t there already.

3D technology is becoming of Rockland Community College’s curriculum, along with the necessary technical programs to train students for the new jobs being created as a result of ever-increasing technological breakthroughs.

At a June 19 Rockland Business Assn. luncheon at Suffern’s Crowne Plaza, a machine that looked more like a giant microwave than a printer was busy re-creating a wrench—an exact replica of the steel one that was scanned into the computer, then sent to the printer via special CAD (computer aided design) software to replicate it. When it was finished printing, another wrench—this one made of plastic—was just as functional and durable as the original.

3D printing is a very real, very exciting technology that has already revolutionized several manufacturing applications, from aerospace to medical industry. Picture yourself typing a letter on a blank screen on your computer—then hitting the “print” button. The difference? Your printed paper is two dimensional. 3D printing adds the width, depth and size of the image sent to its printed version—adding or changing color at the touch of a keystroke.

Just a few samples of tools and other everyday utensils—including a set of false teeth—a 3D computer can replicate.
Just a few samples of tools and other everyday utensils—including a set of false teeth—a 3D computer can replicate.

Sitting next to the Stratasys™ printer on display were more than a dozen objects—from a dental retainer to a computer mouse –samples of what a smaller model can produce once the CAD file is created and the right mix of liquid/powder materials is loaded into the printer. While 3D printing takes longer to create its product than 2D, the finished product is as workable—and durable—as the original. While current 3D printing works with paper and plastic, ones that work with metal are being readied to roll out.

The technology has been in existence for more than three decades. It has only within the last few years that the 3D printer been affordable enough to become mainstream.

The model Rockland Community College will be bringing to its campus –and to its Haverstraw extension center, which is doubling in size –costs approximately $9,000 each and are part of the college’s commitment to staying in touch with the times and training the workforce needed to keep the wheels turning.

RCC president Cliff Wood, RBA’s keynote speaker, said the college was approached by the Center for Global Advanced Manufacturing (CGAM) and asked to be a partner in a Consolidated Funding Application. CGAM received over $18 million from New York State in capital funding to undertake several initiatives to bring the technology to the Mid-Hudson region. RCC is on its radar.

CGAM is also creating a Machinist Training Center and virtual classroom at Newburgh’s SUNY Orange campus, utilizing SUNY’s Information Technology department. Under CGAM’s “umbrella:” SUNY IT, all Hudson Valley and Mohawk Valley community colleges, together with the relevant manufacturing sector support organizations in the region, will be working in tandem to create new programs for students and business owners.

Haverstraw’s RCC extension will double in size, thanks to developer Martin Ginsberg’s offer to give RCC the entire second floor of the building it is currently located in rent-free for two years. The 9.000 square foot expansion will create a 3D printing “Proof of Concept” Center linked to the college’s existing Business Resource Center.

Inside the new Concept Center? “$160,000 worth of 3D printing equipment, SolidWorks ™ software to train users in an environment supported by our CAD faculty and student interns,” said Wood.

Funding will come from a variety of sources: $500,000 from SUNY 2020’s Smart Grant; $100,000 from Nice-Pak; $150,000 grant from CGAM; along with other funding, will make the Concept Center a working reality, where today’s students will learn today’s (and tomorrow’s) skills for jobs that will be created as a result of new technology.

RCC isn’t forgetting the trades, either. With a grant from Trade Adjustment Assistance program grant, it will give the college the ability to offer on-line training and simulation programs to train and place at least 30 people in new manufacturing jobs—with hopes of more to come.

RCC is also working on a NYS funding application to create a relationship with Pfizer to create an innovation center on the company’s campus. “They are committed to the concept,” said Wood, “and so are we.” Wood hopes a tech learning center, similar to Research Triangle Park created by the University of North Carolina, happen here.

“We have no such center here in the Hudson Valley,” said Wood. “New Palts and Stony Brook University are planning to work with us…as is Westchester Community College. We would like to see a Hudson Valley Research Development Center become a reality for our region.”

“This is very exciting,” said architect Michael Shilale, as he watched the printer at work. “CAD software will allow us to create a 3D model of a project we are planning…incredible technology that will cross into every industry.”