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3-D Printing Streamlines Processes in Drafting

(RED OAK) – Texas State Technical College’s Computer-Aided Drafting program is now using high-tech 3-D printing as a way to streamline processes and teach students more effectively.

“The intent is to 3-D print in every class,” said Victor Ramirez, computer-aided drafting program chair. “The output is no longer the end result of a paper drawing. Because the technology is there for us to print it and see it and have a model of it, that’s what the end result should be.”

Before, the lengthy process involved the drafting students sending plans to the precision machining program to be cut from metal, having it welded, and finally receiving it back to analyze it for changes.

“Now, in engineering and research and design, that all happens virtually,” Ramirez said. “You don’t even have to have a set of drafting prints anymore because you have a 3-D model. You send that 3-D model to the printer and it prints out. It’s really changed the output of manufacturing and design.”

Chace Groves, a student in the Computer-Aided Drafting program, has probably used the 3-D printers the most, working on a project he originally built out of parts from the hardware store.

“I saw a product that I liked, but I wanted to make it better,” Groves said. “I opened up my tool box and built one, brought it to Mr. Ramirez and asked him what he thought.”

According to Ramirez, the first three variations of Groves’ project took three months to make.

“He did the drawings, but it had to be fabricated by somebody else,” Ramirez said. “It was a process. Draw it, have it fabricated, see what it looks like and make revisions.”

After the program started 3-D printing, the processing time was shortened by more than half.

“After printing the first one, we critiqued it and designed a second iteration of it,” Ramirez said. “These only took days of change, versus months. Once we got used to the printer, from the fourth to the fifth one, it took one day. Now we’re able to design so fast with the software, it’s the printing process that takes the most time.”

Groves believes the printing process is beneficial to the program, and has created most of the projects used in the mechanical class.

“When we print out the plans, it’s one thing to look at it on the computer or print this out on a sheet of paper,” Groves said. “It’s another thing to hold it and work with it. Now we have something for people to look at, and a way for the students to see what they’re actually drawing.”

Since 70 percent of all classes at TSTC require hands-on learning, this is particularly important.

“In classes, some of the students have never seen the parts we talk about,” Ramirez said. “Now when we talk about these things we can pass them around and show threading patterns and nuts and bolts.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 23 percent increase in Texas drafting jobs through 2022, with a median annual salary of $64,240. TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science and a level two certificate in Computer-Aided Drafting at the North Texas campus.

TSTC will begin enrolling new students for the summer and fall semesters on April 4. For more information on the Computer-Aided Drafting program and the college, or to apply, visit www.tstc.edu.

Written by Debra Gonzalez on February 26, 2016
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