Celebrating the third dimension
At De La Salle College sits a machine that looks like a toy.
It whirs quietly in the corner, spewing out a long thin string of yellow plastic in a seemingly random pattern.
Only after watching for a few minutes can a little yellow boat be seen rising, layer by layer, from the printing surface.
De La Salle is the first school in New Zealand to have its own 3D printer.
Using yellow polylactic acid, a type of plastic, it can print a small version of just about anything.
Boys from the school's computer club put the printer together with a little help from Auckland University PhD student Ming Cheuk who programmed the software.
Club president Trey Tatafu, 17, says they could do it all themselves next time - "It's easy."
If they do build a second one as planned, it will be cheap.
The printer has the unusual distinction of being able to replicate many of its own parts, apart from a few metal nuts and bolts which can be picked up from the local hardware store.
Printing in three dimensions was previously the domain of universities but the cost has plummeted recently with the advent of free blueprints and software.
The club put together its rapid replication printer - RepRap for short - for just $800, compared to a price tag of up to $200,000 for a commercial printer.
So far the printer has come in handy for technology and graphics classes because it can produce accurate and robust models of students' work.
Budding design students bring the club their idea, the design is entered and the printer produces a 3D model in as little as half an hour.
Trey says the computer club fixes broken computers, keyboards and mice for families in the community, a way of giving back which is encouraged by De La Salle.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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