3D printing comes of age at RCC

BY JANIE ROSMAN

unnamed (1)To say 3D printing is a big help to visual artist Tim Englert is an understatement.

“I make pieces from wood, and made furniture during the past several years,” Englert of Knickerbocker Bench said. “The Smart Lab has been instrumental in helping me visualize modifications to my work, and to do it in a way that keeps me from making a 600-pound bench” before the design is completed.

Previewed last year, the facility — the first prototype center of its kind in the Hudson Valley — opened in February at Rockland Community College’s Haverstraw extension.

RCC president Dr. Cliff L. Wood lobbied to bring one of the state’s 12 such centers to his school. “Our commitment is a regional center that supports businesses,” Wood, a voting member of the Governor’s Regional Economic Development Council, said. The Center has “$160,000 worth of 3D printing equipment, SolidWorks ™ software to train users in an environment supported by our CAD faculty and student interns.”

While the protoypes are ABS plastic, the software can be programmed for printing glass, metal and gold. “It’s a collaboration of sharing public resources, creating job opportunities and training for current and future employment opportunities,” he said.

unnamed (2)After hearing about the facility through Leadership Rockland, Englert is now learning to use its SolidWorks software with help from an RCC intern. “With it, I can make a small change to a bench (which has strict design parameters) and then see what the change would look like,” he said.

Currently Englert, whose work is along the trail at Nyack Beach State Park and at Congers Lake, is designing a 14-foot long table. While he loves the feel of wood, “for me, the creation process first comes from a visual inside my head.”

The Smart Lab offers free-of-charge services to New York companies, including assistance from staff and CAD students. Its 9,000-square-foot expansion includes three 3D printers — Fortus 250 mic, SST 1200 es, and uPrint SE Plus — a 3D scanner, a science/wet lab, four CAD workstations, six new classrooms/training rooms, and business services.

unnamed (3)On a table against one wall, a scarecrow, a witch, working scissors, link chain, half a Slinky keep company with other objects made of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) plastic. One of the three machines was in the process of printing a design that was created using SolidWorks software.

“The shortest build time could be minutes but it’s usually hours, up to a week,” Michael Kluger, Assistant to the HEC Director. “After it’s out of the machine, each figure is put into a special bath to dissolve its support material.”

Manufacturers can evaluate, customize, and expedite prototypes in a sandbox environment, free of charge to New York companies, assisted by RCC staff and CAD (Computer Assisted Design) students. Robert Van Pelt, a mechanical engineer at Sono-Tek Corporation in Milton, said the lab “gives us rapid prototypes that we can use to evaluate their performance, and then have it made (in-house) from stainless steel or glass.”

His company produces ultrasonic spray systems for applying precise, thin film coatings. “A prototype takes less time to print, and we can have something within a day or two,” Van Pelt said.

“We saw an opportunity to bring something innovative to the Hudson Valley,” Wood said. Although RCC has offered CAD programs, “people who know them will now learn this new, cutting-edge technology.”

Support comes from the Ginsberg Development Corp.; Rockland’s Industrial Development Agency; The Center for Global Advanced Manufacturing (CGAM); SUNY 2020: and SUNY WORKS; the U.S. Department of Labor through its TAACIT (Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Training Program.) grant program.

The project is in the Village of Haverstraw, the Town of Haverstraw and the North Rockland school district, “and when they say it takes a village to have a facility like this, it does,” Wood said.

For information, contact Brian Merritt at bmerritt@sunyrockland.edu or 845-786-2413, or Michael Kluger at mkluger@sunyrockland.edu or 845-786-5340.