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An Interview with Dr. Daniel Freedman, SUNY New Paltz

One new trend we expect to be hearing more about in 3D printing in the coming years is the inclusion of the technology into college curricula. At SUNY New Paltz, they have taken it to the next level by establishing a Makerbot Innovation Center for their campus. In fact, they were the first location in the world to have a Makerbot Innovation Center. To celebrate their one year anniversary, Makerbot CEO Jennifer Lawton will be speaking from the campus today, in a presentation called “12 Years From Now”. The presentation is set for 4:30pm, in Lecture Center 100 and is free and open to the public. To find out how this all came about, we recently had a chance to speak with Dr. Daniel Freedman who currently serves as dean of the School of Science & Engineering and director of the Hudson Valley Advanced Manufacturing Center at SUNY New Paltz. The interview was conducted via email, and the transcript is here below.

1) What prompted you to look into becoming a MakerBot 3D Innovation Center? Had anyone among the staff and faculty had experience with other 3D printers or 3D design?
Faculty and staff in our Art Department had been using 3D printing for about four years. We had a series of discussions between Fine and Performing Arts and Science and Engineering and identified 3D design and printing as areas where there was considerable shared interested, particularly with Art, Computer Science and our new Mechanical Engineering Program. The Center was actually an obvious next step because if you want to engage large numbers of students across the campus in 3D Design/Printing, you are going to need a lot of printers.

2) What types of reactions have you had across campus since the Innovation Center got up and running?
Lots of interest from faculty, staff, students and many people from the community in every area you can think of. Everyone is enthusiastic, interested and want to get involved.

3) What has been done to promote its existence and technology? Have you begun any cross-campus partnerships since its inception both on campus or out in the community?
Although the initial collaboration was formed from Fine and Performing Arts and Science and Engineering, the Schools of Education and Business are also getting involved by reaching out to K-12 districts and entrepreneurship, respectively. Most of the promotion has been by interest from the media in what we are doing.

4) Who all is able to take advantage of having this type of resource on campus? Is it limited to students taking courses or pursuing degrees in engineering or the sciences?
The Innovation Center is open to everyone on campus, students, faculty and staff.

5) What impact do you think it has had on the education of your students? Does it give your students a competitive edge over those from other schools?
It allows students to quickly see their design become reality. This is of enormous benefit in tweaking design to make them both more artistic and functional. I think this is an enormous educational benefit for students in the arts and engineering. I think it will give our students a competitive edge because the use of 3D printing is exploding in many different areas.

6) How does the grant from Governor Cuomo factor into your larger plans for the Innovation Center? What will you do with the money (if you can disclose this information)?
The SUNY2020 grant will be used to build the Engineering Innovation Hub which will provide space for our new Mechanical Engineering program, the Hudson Valley Advanced Manufacturing Center, and the MakerBot Innovation Center. It will also have some space for STARTUP New York activities, ideally for companies that are synergistic with engineering, art and 3D printing.

7) Has the first year met all of your expectations thus far? What have been the biggest challenges presented and how have they been overcome or handled? What have been the biggest surprises, if any?
It's been a very exciting year. The biggest surprise has been how far and how fast we have moved in the last year. This just seemed like an obvious step last year based on internal and external interest and it's been something of a surprise that we are out in front in the educational uses of 3D printing. The biggest challenge has been putting in the infrastructure to deal the greater than expected interested. We have handled that by making this a campus-wide effort, being innovative and working really hard.

8) What advice, if any, would you give to another dean, professor, or business who is interested in beginning an Innovation Center on their campus or a place of business?
It's all about having people with the skill and interest.

9) What are some of the long-term goals of the School of Science and Engineering as it relates to both 3D printing and education in general?
In Science and Engineering, we plan on integrating design for additive manufacturing into the Mechanical Engineering program. This has opened up a lot of new horizons in manufacturing, particularly in aerospace and medical technology and we want to be at the forefront of that.

10) What materials/filament are you printing with, and what are some of the products you have printed that you are most proud of?
With the MakerBots, we mainly use PLA and ABS, but we have experimented quite a bit recently with Ninjaflex with a lot of success as well as dual material builds with ABS and Ninjaflex. We recently installed a Stratasys Fortus 400mc and have been doing a lot of printing with polycarbonate, ULTEM and have just started printing with nylon 12. These are great materials and we've just scratched the surface with what can be done with them. We've also done a lot of molding, mainly silicone, and we're just starting to electroplate ABS builds with copper.