University of Virginia
The University of Virginia’s mechanical and aerospace engineering program is one of the best in the United States, in part because of its commitment to hands-on learning. With six uPrint 3D Printers and a Fortus 3D Production System running every day, UVA’s rapid prototyping lab is where theory and imagination become objects that either make it or flop in the real world.
If creating models and mechanical devices constitutes a hands-on curriculum, UVA’s mechatronics projects could be called “hands- and minds-on” learning. Mechatronics combines mechanical, electronic, computer, software and control engineering with systems-design engineering to imagine and manufacture useful products.
The results are smart machines, like programmable printers. Students learned about stepper motors, brush motors, limit switches and software engineering to make eight mechatronic plotters out of 3D-printed parts, according to Dwight Dart, design lab engineer at UVA’s rapid prototyping lab.
Dart hopes more professors take advantage of 3D printing to illustrate how engineering disciplines fit together to create smarter machines. “It’s this kind of creativity and vision that makes the 3D printer an invaluable tool for our students,” he said. See a video of students using their plotters.