Ethan Ouimet is the MakerLab Coordinator at Portland Community College MakerLab. He lives half time in Portland and half time in Eugene, where he also works at the University of Oregon MakerSpace and is finishing his degree in product design.
Entry into 3D Printing
Ouimet started 3D printing while pursuing a degree in product design at the University of Oregon. “Product design is akin to industrial design, but more focused on user experience and how humans interact with products. It requires a fair amount of prototyping, and we often turn to 3D printing to prototype our CAD models,” says Ouimet.
“Thanks to my major, I also have a love of shop environments, which I’m currently lucky enough to work in,” Ouimet explains. “I run two makerspaces: one at the University of Oregon and the other at Portland Community College, which is a beautiful shop with a ton of resources.”
Choosing the Afinia Brand for the MakerLab
The Portland Community College MakerLab has a pair of Afinia H800 3D Printers, which were acquired by the school before Ouimet took his position there. “My former boss, who did all the purchasing for the lab, is an engineering guru. He had used Afinia products in the past—I think he even has some at home—and had a great experience with the brand, which is why he chose Afinia for the MakerLab.”
“So far, working with the Afinia 3D printers has been great. We also have a whole educational classroom fleet of 25 UP Minis: each PC in the room is connected to one to facilitate hands-on learning of the technology. People can follow along as a group, which is super helpful for 3D printing. When everyone gets to operate their own machine, we see much more effective learning.”
Student Access to 3D Printing
Ouimet explains that at the Portland Community College MakerLab, the educational area with the UP Mini collection is free for students to access. He adds, “The other printers in the shop are still open to students, but are more closely monitored, as we want to ensure they’re always up and running.”
One way the MakerLab ensures proper use of the machines is by offering a class for credit that introduces students to 3D printing. “We cover what 3D printing is used for and discover the various software for it,” explains Ouimet, clarifying, “For students who aren’t able to fit the class into their schedule, we offer to chat with them on their own time, and give them the condensed hour or two version of the class.”
Using (and Loving) the Afinia Brand
“We use the Afinia H800 3D printers for large format printing, or for projects that require fine detail. They are really good machines!” exclaims Ouimet, who has created several projects on the Afinia 3D printers.
“I’m currently working on designing and printing a trophy for my roommate. He is an AT&T store manager, and they have a regional awards ceremony every year where they reward their employees’ hard work. My roommate liked the 3D printing projects I’ve brought home in the past, and wanted to do a 3D printed trophy with a Lombardi-style base (they are big fantasy football fans) and a sphere on top to be painted like the AT&T logo.”
“Aside from my project, lots of students have done 3D scans of heads on the H800s (because of great accuracy). Other students have done trophies as well, and one student recently printed a large trophy they designed with Autodesk’s Fusion 360 CAD software. They later used it as the positive burnout for a mold which they cast bronze into.”
Although many people view 3D printing in makerspaces as a way to create hobbyist items, Ouimet explains that he’s seen a variety of projects created with their 3D printers. “About 60% of the projects students complete are for class and 40% are for fun. We get a lot of engineering students using the printers. For example, many electrical engineering students use them to print cases for circuit boards, or whip up other crazy and cool gadgets. However, lots of art and sculpture students are common, too,” clarifies Ouimet.
“Some of the students in our machining program are really interested in additive manufacturing… maybe because it’s different from the CNC/subtractive manufacturing that they use so often,” Ouimet adds.
Ouimet explains that students of all different study backgrounds come in to use the technology, as does a decent amount of staff and faculty. “The faculty finds it really helpful for demonstration pieces. For example, chemistry professors can use it to print organic chemistry models,” he says.
Applauding the Afinia H800 3D Printer
“I’ve had really good experience, overall, with the Afinias, the H800s especially,” Ouimet states enthusiastically. “They’re very reliable and the software is one of the easiest I’ve used to navigate.” Ouimet explains that he owns a different brand of 3D printer at home (which he purchased prior to using an Afinia), which he described using less-than-desirable terms.
The lighting feature on the H800 also gained praise from Ouimet. “The lights on the build platform are very helpful. I’ve heard this from other people, too. It’s just nice to see at a glance what the printer is doing. Even with the doors closed, you can see the light penetrating through the front panel. That’s super nice when you’re monitoring multiple printers,” he explains.
“Oh, and of course the controls that are right on the machine are excellent. They’re really intuitive, and the overall design is so sleek.” Ouimet admits that the Afinia H800 3D printers are actually placed strategically so they are the first ones to be seen upon entering the MakerLab. “They just look so cool,” he says.