New IDEAS Lab Offers State-of-the-Art Digital Fabrication Tools

 Assistant Professor of the Practice Daniel MollerIDEAS clasroom

Daniel Moller, assistant professor of the practice in integrative sciences, is teaching Introduction to Design and Engineering inside the new IDEAS Lab this fall semester.

Equipped with 3-D printers, water-jet and laser cutters, computer-operated milling machines, and high-tech drills, saws, and workstations, Wesleyan’s new IDEAS Lab is on the “cutting edge” of digital fabrication.

Wesleyan’s new ProtoMAX water-jet cutter created this butterfly out of aluminum in 18 minutes.

This fall, the College of Integrative Sciences opened the adjoined classroom and makerspace in Room 40 of Exley Science Center. While it is currently used by students in the IDEAS (Integrated Design, Engineering & Applied Science) program, by spring 2020 the space should be open to the entire Wesleyan community.

“The space is the heart of our efforts to provide students with a facility to explore their ideas and create new projects,” said Francis Starr, IDEAS coordinator and professor of physics.

The IDEAS program prepares students to succeed at the intersection of design, the arts, and engineering. Students hone skills in identifying which scientific and engineering principles need to be understood to achieve design goals, and use computer-aided design (CAD) software and fabrication tools in the lab to create a solution for their design. Students also develop foundational knowledge in design and engineering by working in collaborative groups on project-based studies.

While much of the new lab equipment was purchased by the University, lighting solutions company OSRAM, based in Beverly, Mass., donated dozens of fabrication tools and parts to Wesleyan this summer. The lab’s professional-grade 3-D printer, computer numerical control router, and vortex dust collector were part of the donation, which collectively are valued at approximately $500,000.

“The donated items allow us to offer students access to a number of tools that they would otherwise not get a chance to experience,” said Professor of Physics Brian Stewart, who spearheaded the OSRAM donation. “We’re also moving closer to establishing an advanced lab in the Physics Department, so the donated vibration-free laser tables, hardware, and electronic equipment will serve as the nucleus of this exciting new departmental project.”

Learn more about IDEAS in this Wesleyan Magazine article. Follow the Wesleyan IDEAS Lab on Instagram.

Photos of the IDEAS Lab are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Lopez shows off a vacuum forming tool, which is used to form plastic around a mold and create a permanent object. At left is a 3-D printer.

Shawn Lopez, College of Integrative Sciences makerspace coordinator, displays an object created by the IDEAS Lab’s vacuum forming machine, pictured at right. The tool heats and forms plastic around a mold and creates a permanent object. At left is a 3-D printer that “prints” a three-dimensional object based on a computer design.

IDEAS

Francis Starr speaks to Brian Stewart about a large 3-D printer that was donated by OSRAM. This machine can print objects with exceptionally high resolution in a wide variety of materials.

Lopez demonstrates how a laser cuts an object out of wood.

Lopez demonstrates how a laser cuts an object out of wood.

The 75-watt engraver uses a CO2 laser, pulsing at 2,500 cycles per second, to cut into a sheet of wood.

The lab’s water-jet cutter slices through flat sheets of metal, tile, stone, and plastic using 30,000 psi of water and garnet abrasive material.

The IDEAS Lab milling machine uses various drill bits to cut and carve 3-D objects from solid materials such as metal, wood or plastic.

The multi-axis computer numerical control router, or milling machine, uses various drill bits, as well as a 4th axis lathe attachment, to cut and carve 3-D objects from solid materials such as metal, wood, or plastic. After programming the paths using appropriate software, the process is almost entirely automated. “Most of our CNC machines are really designed for cutting material in two dimensions,” Lopez said. “What if you want to actually carve a piece of metal in three different dimensions? This mill is the kind of device that can actually do that.”

OSRAM donated multiple laboratory oscilloscopes, which are used to display and analyze the waveform of electronic signals. Three have already been installed in the Exotic Wave Lab managed by Fred Ellis, professor of physics. “Numerous research groups have already benefited through the acquisition of individual pieces of equipment: oscilloscopes, digital delay generators, and other hardware have satisfied needs or increased capabilities in most of the department’s experimental laboratories,” Stewart said. “This is particularly welcome as our ability to accommodate additional undergraduate students into our research labs is often limited by the availability of equipment for new or exploratory projects.”

In addition to digital fabrication machinery, OSRAM donated thousands of pieces of optical equipment to Wesleyan.

The IDEAS Lab is located on the ground floor of Exley Science Center.