ALBANY, GA – This spring Albany Technical College has added new cutting-edge metal desktop 3D printing to the courses available in the Engineering Graphics Program.  Students can now take specialized courses in 3D Mechanical Modeling that will include a metal modeling aspect. These types of desktop metal procedures exist so that engineers, designers, and manufacturers can now have easier access to metal and carbon fiber 3D printing.

The application for 3D metal printing includes a vast number of industries: Automotive, Consumer Goods, Heavy Industry, Education, Machine Design, Manufacturing Tooling, and even the Military. How the industry produces parts starting from a prototype and continuing into mass production is changing rapidly. These desktop printing options are changing the way parts are designed, manufactured, and sold. 

What is done in the Engineering Graphics lab is on a prototype basis. But in industry, this is something that they use to create real parts. What is used here is not always on the same grade as far as the expense of the material used or how hard the material can get, but the process is still the same. A product is still taken from concept to creation that starts with the idea that is then created and brought to life. 

“This 3D metal prototyping technology has been added to our Engineering Graphics Program offerings here at Albany Technical College to address the new challenges in today’s industry. Those organizations in the business know that speed, cost, and quality are important and that 3D printing is becoming an essential tool for engineers and manufacturers in our country,” said Dr. Anthony Parker, President of Albany Technical College. “This expertise is being used right here in the South Georgia community to make parts, so we see a need to make sure it is taught to our future workforce.”

Edrian Mallory, Chair/Instructor Engineering Graphics Program stated that “I am so thrilled that I can offer my students the opportunity to work with 3D metal. For so long, we have worked with different types of plastic composites. So when we are working with metal, it allows us to get that real-life feel of a product that we have created to make sure it works the way it was intended to work and how it was designed to work. 

Mallory says that it is a 3-step system where students will create their part in some type of computer-aided design (CAD) software. 

STEP 1: We can then take it from the final design into the printer, using a stainless-steel composite to print out the part. 

STEP 2: At that point, the part is put into a debinder, the second step of the system. The debinder takes that part and cleans it up slightly and prepares it for the third step. 

STEP 3: The third step is the sintering process. This third process is basically a furnace where you will place the part in something like a Dutch Oven where it will cook. It will heat up to roughly 1500 degrees to ensure that that stainless steel composite you started with will solidify or harden up into a metal part. 

The whole process does take longer than 3D printing for rapid prototyping. This is not a quick process. But it gives students the real-world feel for the part that has been created in their minds.

The Engineering Graphics Program allows students to bring some imagination to life through the assistance of 3D printing used to create a physical model of any design created with CAD software. The variety of 3D printing materials and printers available today allows students to make any random idea a tangible item from residential design to prosthetic limbs. Engineering Graphics is an advancement of traditional drafting practices that takes full advantage of technological advancements of the field to prepare students for employment in a variety of positions in the engineering graphics field, such as drafter or CAD operator, based on the specialization area a student chooses to complete. Students will learn a variety of software applications to produce 2D and 3D models for architectural and mechanical design. 

The Engineering Graphics program offers two specializations―Architectural and Mechanical―both with an associate degree, diploma, and certificate options available. Upon completion of the program, students often find work with architect firms and local contractors. It’s not uncommon for students to work for themselves doing freelance work before they branch out to other employment opportunities.

Students that wish to continue their education beyond an associate degree will have pathway opportunities available with Albany State University, Georgia Military College, Valdosta State University, and Kennesaw State University.