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Putnam Career Center students earn medals in 3D printing competition

By Ben Calwell, Metro Reporter
Hayden Erwin, in foreground, and Jason Halstead II compete in the Additive Manufacturing component of the SkillsUSA competition in Bridgeport on April 16. The students designed a bridge using computer software and then their design was produced on a 3D printer. Photo courtesy of RCBI.
Metro photo by BEN CALWELL Putnam Career and Technical Center students Jason Halstead II, left, and Hayden Erwin stand next to a 3D printer at the Eleanor school. The students won silver medals in the first Additive Manufacturing competition April 16 in Bridgeport. The Additive Manufacturing, or 3D Printing component, hosted by the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexibile Manufacturing, was part of the state SkillsUSA competition.

A team of two students from the Putnam County Career and Technical Center in Eleanor took home silver medals in the first-ever Additive Manufacturing competition at the SkillsUSA state championships in Bridgeport on April 16.

Additive Manufacturing, which is better known as “3D printing,” was first introduced as a demonstration event at the 2015 SkillsUSA National Championships, according to the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing, which hosted the 3D printing competition in Bridgeport.

The two Putnam Career Center students, Hayden Erwin and Jason Halstead II, who also attend Buffalo High School, have been studying 3D printing at the career center as part of the school’s computer assisted drafting, or CAD, class.

Drafting instructor Roy Lyons said the Putnam Career Center has had a 3D printer for about seven years.

“We’ve made it part of our curriculum ever since we got the printer,” Lyons said.

Erwin, son of Career Center Principal Mike Erwin, and Halstead are first-year students at the technical center.

“They’re real proficient. I start out with them on the drawing board, and then they go to the computer. What makes the 3D printer so much friendlier to use is that we have a 3D CAD program. We can actually draw it up in 3D (on a computer) and then convert it to an SDL file and then send it to the printer,” he said.

The 3D printer then takes that three-dimensional “sketch” that was produced on a computer and produces an actual three-dimensional model of the item.

The 3D printer at the Putnam Career Center uses an “ABS plus plastic” material to produce three-dimensional models. The printer “lays the material down one-ten-thousandth-of-an-inch thick with each pass,” Lyons said.

At the SkillsUSA state competition in Bridgeport, Erwin and Halstead had to produce, using various dimension requirements, a 3D model of a bridge.

“We had to design the bridge to get there (to the competition), and then, once we got there, we had to make a redesign,” Erwin said.

The redesign challenge, created by RCBI engineers and 3D printing experts, required turning the students’ bridge into a drawbridge.

“Our redesign was pretty cool,” Erwin said.

According to dimension requirements, “The bridge had to be no longer than six inches, no wider than three inches and the supports had to be built and somehow assembled to the bridge top separately,” Halstead said.

Halstead said he and Erwin excel at creating 3D sketches using a computer program.

“We’re good at creating an actual sketch in the program, and then all we have to do is export it as an SDL file and print it,” he said.

The 3D printing competition was added to the state SKillsUSA event because it is a technology that more industries are adopting.

In a prepared statement, RCBI Director and CEO Charlotte Weber said, “As manufacturers increasingly adopt 3D Printing technology, the demand for skilled workers continues to grow.”

Putnam Career and Technical Center Principal Mike Erwin said the school, which offers 18 different programs, did well in other SkillsUSA contests.

“There were well over 50 competitions. From this school, we had 22 gold medal winners, 20 silver medal winners and one bronze,” Erwin said, adding that many of the medals went to teams of students.


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