Jun - 2017

Spyder Bytes: American 3D Printing

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Jeff Zepp, owner of American 3D Printing

Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy!” is the phrase that Ms. Frizzle would say to her class before taking a field trip. This eccentric teacher was a cartoon character featured on the popular 90’s animated television series “The Magic School Bus”. The series was about a teacher named Ms. Frizzle who had innovative ways of teaching scientific concepts to her students. With hands-on experience and learning by trial and error, each field trip was an exciting and new adventure. Although Jeff Zepp, owner of the American 3D Printing store in Evergreen, Colorado doesn’t have a magic school bus, he does have 3D printers that are almost like magic where you can make what you imagined into a reality. Taking the magic of 3D printing to the classroom, Zepp teaches junior high students at Rocky Mountain Academy of Evergreen the various uses of 3D printing. He encourages students to use their imagination and creativity to “turn an idea into a physical object”. Though this is his second year of teaching an elective, it is one of the most popular classes that the students enjoy coming to. “We have 24 computer workstations in the tech lab, and we are normally completely full,” Zepp said.

kid and his fidget spinner
Zepp’s student creating a fidget spinner

The kids are so engaged in the process of operating the machines, designing, and 3D editing their models that by the time the bell rings for the end of the class, none of them “want to leave, they want to keep working,” Zepp exclaimed. While he’s not teaching, Zepp spends time at his store called American 3D Printing. He started his 3D printing business after reading a news article that was about NASA’s Mars rover mission in 2012. He found it fascinating that NASA used a Fortus 3D printer with Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology to print about 70 rover parts. The article explained that NASA engineers chose the FDM method due to its lightweight and durability end-uses. Without 3D printing, it would have been “nearly impossible to build,” Chris Chapman, a NASA test engineer said. Before buying expensive materials needed to build a machine like the Mars rover, NASA designs and 3D prints prototypes to test out the form, fit, and function of the parts (2012).

NASA’s Mars rover
One of the parts that were 3D printed for the Mars rover

          Inspired by what he had read and the amazing things that could be done in the 3D printing industry, Zepp opened his store in August 2013.

Inside of the American 3D Printing store
Inside of the American 3D Printing store
The opening of the store
The opening of the store

His store offers everything from 3D printing, scanning, copying, designing, and equipment sales. It specializes in Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) as well as photorealistic color 3D printing. This style of printing uses special cameras that can do a full body scan. The photos are then transferred onto a 3D modeling software that produces a life-like figurine of a person.

Photorealistic scanning

Zepps’ store is not only opened to his students but also customers to see firsthand what the 3D printing industry is all about. The students are free to stop by for a visit, take a tour, or ask questions about their design. He even offers internships so that they can apply what they’ve learned into the real world. The industry is constantly changing with new and improved machines that can do amazing things. Just “trying to keep up with all the latest news is like trying to drink from a fire hose,” Zepp expressed. Though the industry is continuously growing, Zepp hopes to impact and share his passion with his community one customer and child at a time. He believes that learning comes from firsthand experiences rather than reading “How Tos” or online instructions of using a 3D printer. Adding a more personable touch, he demonstrates the process of 3D printing and allows customers to “see the machines working with their own eyes. If they have any questions, there is always someone there to explain the whole thing face to face,” Zepp said. This is what “will really help our industry grow” by teaching and explaining the industry in person. Zepp hopes that his past experiences could help show others to not only use 3D printing to make the world a better place, but also to use 3D printing to help others. Spice up your life with exploring the magic of 3D printing.

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For more information about Jeff Zepp’s store click here.

Stay tune for next week’s article about a “Race to Space”!

Work Cited

NASA’s ‘Mars Rover’ Has Many 3D Printed Parts. (2012, August 28). Retrieved June 28, 2017, from                   http://www.ptonline.com/articles/nasas-mars-rover-has-many-3d-printed-parts.

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