Queens College visits Shapeways

Today my students and I had the extreme pleasure of visiting the +Shapeways Inc Factory in Long Island City, Queens, NYC and having a guided tour by +Lauren Slowik.  It served as the culmination of our Mathematical Art projects in the Math with Mathematica class that I have been teaching this semester.  

We arrived for 9:00am at their very nondescript building in this industrial part of the city.  We headed up the stairs and down a long corridor with supplies in cardboard boxes.  All this feels rather sketchy and makes you wonder if you're in the right place.  At the end of the hall on the left is a door with a tiny plaque indicating the entrance to Shapeways.  When you enter you arrive in a large airy room with drafting tables and computers; everything is white and little figurines and 3D prints are everywhere.

Our class was told to make ourselves at home in their lounge/kitchen area.  When Lauren arrived we went in to the factory area.  We learned about the sintering process and got to see their newest printers; we are sworn to secrecy about their proprietary packing processes. (Hope I haven't said too much already; they might hunt me down with 3D printed tranquilizer darts.)  We got to see their ceramics printing area and the kiln that was firing products.  We were showed where workers air blast the printed models to remove the unused powder and prepare the models for finishing.  Some models are polished, some are dyed, and all are meticulously manually tagged and prepared for shipping.  

At the end of the tour, we collected the final versions of the students' projects.  We had received our prototypes at the beginning of April; after refining and resubmitting the updated files, 12 of the 15 models were ready to be picked up.  Oohs and aahs and ear-to-ear grins abounded.  There is something magical about holding in your hand the object you have been designing on a computer.  Each object had a story to be told and students wanted to share this with each other.  

Too quickly it was time to leave since we had to drive back to Queens College for class at 10:45.  The energy and excitement were palpable.  If I have the opportunity to lead another group of students through this opportunity, I'd probably take an extra week of time so that the students could be assured of their projects being ready for pickup and another hour for debriefing and discussing the project.  We are grateful to Shapeways and especially Lauren Slowik who has supported us financially and with moral support throughout this project.

Photo gallery of our trip and our art:  https://plus.google.com/photos/+ChristopherHanusa/albums/6143331365116700929
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