Rapid prototyping is the process used in engineering to design and build a representative model for use in testing engineering components and systems. This is a key step in the “develop and prototype solutions” part of the engineering design process. The rapid prototyping process using computer aided design (CAD) and 3D printing technology allows us to model components faster at a relatively fast pace and at a reduced cost compared to conventional technical drawing and manufacturing. components in machine shop. This allows the technical designs to be quickly refined in order to obtain an optimal solution.
A&M-Texarkana engineering students can experience the rapid prototyping process through the use of CAD software such as AutoCAD and Autodesk Inventor. Students learn to use AutoCAD primarily in 2D design for schematics, layouts, and MvPart drawing. Students use Autodesk Inventor in the design of 3D parts of mechanical components. These part designs are then fabricated using 3D printers that use Fusion Deposition Modeling (FDM) which melts the plastic filament to form the complete 3D parts.
In November 2019, the American Electric Power Foundation (AEP) awarded a large grant to A&M-Texarkana to develop a CAD lab for the purpose of using cutting-edge technology in the instruction and fabrication of 2D and 3D designs and in the rapid prototyping of 3D prints. rooms. The lab contains state-of-the-art CAD design workstations that include modular furniture, ergonomic chairs, curved monitors, and upgraded servers. The room has also been equipped for teaching with a combination of two projection screens and three super-large screen monitors so that students can view demonstrations from any point in the room. The room also contains 3D printers capable of using a wide range of filaments for particular design needs. The larger 3D printer has a build volume of 11.8 x 9.8 x 7.9 inches and will print in two colors using a dual extruder system.
The University is very grateful to the AEP Foundation and our local community for bringing such technology to our region. All CAD equipment supports the University and AEP initiative for community education and will serve as a lifelong learning tool for schools and industries in the region, as well as to support the University’s growing mechanical and electrical engineering programs.
Kenneth L. Irizarry is Professor of Engineering at Texas A&M University-Texarkana.