The School of Engineering at Penn State Behrend has installed a 3D printer, a high-tech system that gives engineers and product designers the ability to produce in real form virtually any shape they can create with computer software. The machine, which was donated to the college by FMC Technologies Measurement Solutions, is worth more than $40,000.
The use of 3D printers allows companies to create functional, lightweight prototypes and parts in a fraction of the time -- and at considerably less cost -- than is possible using traditional tool-and-die methods.
"If you can represent it on a computer screen, in a three-dimensional model, you can print it," said Greg Dillon, associate director for research and technology transfer for the School of Engineering. "You can see how the shape works, and how the material works, without having to go through the whole tooling and manufacturing process. That's a tremendous advantage."
The gift of the machine enhances an existing partnership between Penn State Behrend and FMC Technologies, an Erie-based manufacturer of precision metering products for the oil and gas industry. More than 20 Penn State Behrend engineering students are currently employed at the company's $500,000 engineering design center, which opened in 2012.
"We recognize Penn State Behrend's commitment to leading-edge technology and providing exceptional educational opportunities for students," said Jim Ertl, vice president and general manager of FMC Technologies' Erie-based operation. "This is just another example of FMC Technologies' commitment to the Erie community and to the relationship we have formed with the University as a key source of future employees for our business."