Gannon Engineering Students Dream Big, And Build Bigger

Posted: March 17, 2017

 What happens when you put three engineering students together a long way from home? They design something; and if these students happen to be members of the Gannon University Robotic Development Team (GUBotDev for short), they design something big- 10-feet-tall to be exact.

Students in Gannon's GUBotDev team designed a 10-foot-tall 3-D printer that Steven Rowland, a software engineering major and one of the designers, said, "is definitely among the three biggest filament printers in the world, from what we can find."

Rowland's assertion might sound like a boast, but engineers, including his team members Nick Devine and Jeremy Korte, both electrical engineering majors, are not given to exaggeration.

"Someone suggested that we build something big enough to print ourselves, and after all the joking, we decided that we had to build it," Korte, an electrical engineering major, said.

That suggestion was made when the three were in Amman, Jordan teaching a robotics workshop. A few sketches on a napkin and 45 days later, the three had designed, and made parts for the delta-style filament printer.

The goal was to have the printer ready for the Erie Manufacturing Day Celebration (MFG) last October, an event that drew hundreds of manufacturers and thousands of visitors to Erie's Bayfront Convention Center. "We knew that everybody would have a 3-D printer. We wanted to bring something cool that nobody had seen," Korte said.

To do so, the GUBotDev team scoured local steel dealers and Craigslist for components. They machined all of the blocks, plates and wheels in Gannon's mechanical engineering lab and assembled the electronics entirely from scratch.

That might have been the easy part. Transporting a 10-foot printer was a different problem, but the team solved it ingeniously by designing and building a base strapped to an electric wheelchair.

The printer, which can be assembled in 45 minutes, has been presented at events on campus such as Wellness Fair and a presentation to recruit students to join GUBotDev. The printer will be at Gannon University's Open House on April 22 with more display opportunities in the works.

Designed to accommodate objects up to six feet in length and three feet in diameter, the printer has the capability to create whole entire wing assemblies for radio-controlled model airplanes, and even to create human statues out of plastic filament. GUBotDev hopes to move forward and begin making large scale products with their creation.

And then it's on to the next project with the goal of having something ready for the next MFG Day this fall. "We're looking forward to us coming back this year with something bigger," Devine said.