RPC CAD Lab
The starting point for most rapid prototyping projects begins in the CAD (Computer Aided Design) Lab, which hosts 2 high-powered iMac Retina 5K and 2 Dell Precision T3610 workstations, and powerful CAD/CAM software such as Solidworks, MasterCam, as well as an array of open-source tools for the generation of 3D models of parts for direct fabrication on the various equipment listed below.
Lulzbot Taz 4
3D printer for early-stage prototypes and wide polymer selection
The Lulzbot Taz 4 printer uses FDM (fused deposition modeling) technology to produce models made of various plastic polymers. The printer operates by melting a spool of plastic and depositing the melted material in specific X, Y and Z coordinates. The plastic quickly cools once deposited and is able to have more material layered on top of it. In this manner, the printer is able to produce a 3D object from successive 2D traces of plastic at increasing heights.
The Lulzbot has the widest selection of materials, albeit the lowest accuracy in printing. It is well-suited for initial prototypes and tactile models; capable of providing a sense of scale and fit for a low cost and in a short amount of time. The Lulzbot can print in the following materials:
- Polylactic Acid (PLA)
- Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)
- High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS)
- NinjaFlex (Polyurethane/Polyethylene copolymer)
- Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA)
- Nylon 618 & 645
High-resolution 3D printer for casting and micron-scale fabrication
The ProJet 1200 prints using DLP (digital light processing) technology, which uses a UV -light projector to solidify a liquid acrylate resin. As is the case with the Lulzbot, the model is produced by the creation of successive 2D layers. In the case of the ProJet 1200, these layers are produced by the projector, which displays different cross-sections of the model for each height. Successive layers of resin will solidify to one another when exposed to the UV-light cross-section.
The ProJet 1200 can only print one material at a time and can only print acrylate polymers; however, there are several types of these polymers available for casting, basic optics or very high-resolution, small parts. The ProJet 1200 has the highest accuracy of any printer in the RPC with resolutions as small as 20 microns. This printer is capable of producing molds for casting PDMS microfluidics, and provides a quick, low-cost alternative to conventional lithography methods for certain applications in this area.
Full-color 3D printer for photorealistic models and interactive visual aids
The ProJet 660 combines 3D printing technology with traditional inkjet printing to produce full-color 3D printed models. This technology, called color jet printing (CJP) deposits thin layers of gypsum powder in a bed. Each layer is then selectively bonded by a chemical agent similar to superglue. Successive layers are solidified according to the design of the object being printed. In addition to bonding the gypsum powder, the print heads that deposit the bonding agent can also deposit CMYK printer colors, allowing for models to be colors in much the same way a color image is produced on paper.
For the ProJet 660, the model material is also the support material. Unlike the Lulzbot and ProJet 1200, though, this support material is not also hardened model material. Since only the gypsum powder that will go into the model is solidified in the printing process, the surrounding powder, while supporting the print, can also be vacuumed and/or blow away once the print is finished. Due to this all of the support material can be vacuumed back into the system to be re-used as model material in the future (or as support material again).
A main application of this printer will be producing anatomical models from patient-imaging data for a number of applications such as education, training, pre-surgical planning, or implant testing. It's similarity to bone makes it especially useful for orthopedic applications, such as designing/testing implants, practicing surgical procedures, and visual training of skeletal anatomy.
ProJet 3500 HDMax
Functional assemblies and large, high-resolution models
The ProJet 3500 also prints models by solidifying a liquid acrylate resin. Unlike the ProJet 1200, though, each cross-section of the printed part is produced by an array of many tiny print heads that deposit a matrix of model and support materials (known as multi-jet printing or MJP). The ProJet 3500 prints in two different materials simultaneously, both versions of an acrylate photopolymer: the model material, which is rigid and strong; and the support material, which is a softer, meltable wax. When printing a part, the ProJet 3500 automatically adds wax support where necessary. The wax is then melted away during post-processing to leave only the model. This process is especially useful for producing functional assemblies, which can be printed pre-assembled and then post-processed to allow for proper motion and fit.
Epilog Helix 24 Laser Cutter/Engraver
60 Watt CO2 Laser cutter for quick and easy 2D vector cutting of plastic sheets and engraving of metal/plastic.
The Helix 24 is a powerful, high-resolution laser cutter capable of planar cuts in plastic sheets up to ¼” thick or more, or thin sheets of aluminum, as well as 3D engraving. It can be used to quickly fabricate custom assemblies from planar parts, such as gears, enclosures, fixtures, support structures, etc. that can be glued, press-fit, or screwed together. Engraving can be used to modify surfaces such as polystyrene and PDMS for cell culture. Laser ablation of glass, acrylic, and other materials can also provide an inexpensive, quick and easy means of fabricating microfluidic devices as an alternative to traditional wet-etching techniques.
Tormach PCNC1100 CNC Mill
A powerful, fully-equipped 4-axis CNC Mill with auto-tool changer that can fabricate parts from raw materials such as plastic, metal, wood.
The Tormach CNC Mill works in the opposite direction as 3D printers. Rather than adding material layer by layer to generate a part, the mill removes material from a piece of stock material with a 1.5 HP (up to 5,140 RPM) spindle, 4-axes of controlled motion, and a wide range of tools. It’s solid, 1,400 pound construction allows it to make high-quality parts with any machinable metal or polymer from a part designed in CAD software (could be the same file made for 3D printing as well). It is highly useful for fast R&D fabrication of manufactured-quality parts and vastly expands the range of materials available for fabricating and prototyping parts. It can cut steel, stainless steel, aluminum, and any machinable plastic. It includes a high-speed spindle kit that allows it to cut plastics more easily. Applications include engraving of molds for casting and fabrication of custom parts for existing research devices, as well as new bioreactor and research apparatuses that require unique designs that would be difficult to make from commercially available parts or by hand.
SCS Labcoter 2 – Parylene Deposition System
Vacuum deposition system for coating parts and devices with a thin, electrically and chemically insulating parylene polymer.
The Labcoter 2 parylene coating system applies ultra-thin layers of parylene to virtually any exposed surface placed in the vacuum chamber with excellent conformity and uniformity. Thickness can be controlled to allow layer thicknesses ranging from several angstroms to tens of microns. It is especially useful to making prototyping parts biocompatible by chemically sealing any surface that may come into contact with cells, prevent the leaching of chemicals from the material into the biological media (this allows 3D printed parts that would otherwise be toxic to cells to come into contact with cells). Other beneficial biologic properties are high hydrophobicity and low cell adhesion, which can be easily reversed with plasma treatment, making it very versatile in cellular and microfluidic applications. It also provides excellent resistance to moisture and a wide range of chemicals. It has excellent dielectric properties providing many benefits to electronics fabrication as well.
Electronics Prototyping Equipment
The RPC has software/hardware for the design/fabrication/testing of electronics. This includes National Instrument DAQ (data acquisition device) and LabVIEW for signal generation/analysis, sensor testing, and instrumentation control/automation. There are also soldering equipment, circuit components, wiring and connectors, multimeters, motors and motor controllers, Arduino and other electronics prototyping kits available to enable the quick development of control systems for new and existing instrumentation and research devices such as bioreactors, rat/mice behavioral study setups, microfluidics sensors, tissue engineering, and imaging applications. The RPC has PCB software to aid in designing circuit boards for analog/digital circuits such as electrode/sensor amplifiers, microcontroller boards, etc.