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McMaster University and Array: Scaled 3D printing for educational institutions

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

McMaster University's reputation as one of Canada's most innovative universities has been greatly aided by McMaster Engineering's dedication to the pursuit of excellence. In Canada and around the world, the caliber of the institution's research and the impacts it has are well known and respected. Faculty members frequently receive recognition on a national and international level for pushing the boundaries of discovery and investigating cutting-edge technologies.

FFF and additive manufacturing in general, as well as 3D printing, are examples of these revolutionary technologies. FFF is a cutting-edge new learning tool that boasts one of the most highly regarded Science and Engineering programs in the nation.

The Challenge

The aim of McMaster University is to educate its students while giving them practical experience. The use of 3D printing and other fabrication techniques is central to this learning. Learning with these technologies has many different facets. Typically, McMaster students are given a design challenge and asked to come up with the best solution.

One of their most recent projects involved designing and constructing a robot without wheels, as Assistant Professor Liz Hassan detailed. This project demonstrates fundamental design concepts like leverage, friction, and power transfer. The difficulty they encountered was that students would not be able to complete enough iterations during a 12-week term to learn from their test results and apply that feedback to their future plans.

When all of McMaster's professors' students needed to print at once, their 3D printing systems crashed. Their 3D printing facilities would become overburdened as a result, which would reduce the number of projects and iterations that could take advantage of 3D printing.

They want to complete three iteration cycles in one term so that students can test their initial prototypes and refine them in response to early feedback. McMaster needs access to systems with a higher throughput in order to do this.

The Solution

McMaster can manage their student projects in a nearly fully automated way thanks to Canvas Array's automated project management flows. The administrator will receive the project files from the students and will review the project and print preferences.

The project will then be sent to the Array after the administrator gives the go-ahead for printing. Once finished, the student will receive a notification and must visit the printing facility to pick up their print.

By significantly reducing the amount of time each student spends managing projects, Canvas Array frees up faculty members' time to engage with students in more beneficial ways.

Scalability and High Throughput

It's not simple to meet the printing demands of hundreds of students each semester. Universities like McMaster also struggle with having the printers available to finish the student printing projects in addition to the aforementioned project management procedure.

A manual 3D printer will typically be idle for more than half of its lifespan. This low uptime is a result of staff not being available around-the-clock to switch to a new print after a print is finished.

The throughput of one Array system is 10 times that of a typical 3D printer. Due to its parallel printing strategy and automation, throughput has increased.

Students can quickly and easily print multiple interactions of their projects, which allows for more testing, iteration, and all-around improvement of understanding.

The Future

Universities and Post-secondary institutions that use Array are able to improve student understanding of the fundamental concepts covered in their courses while also increasing throughput and reducing staff workload. McMaster will be among the first to receive a production unit in 2022 because it recognizes the potential that Array offers. This will give upcoming generations of engineers a thorough education and enable them to benefit from their first possible exposure to 3DP and FFF.


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