The MIX 3D Printing Lab: Where Imagination Becomes Reality

By Madjiguene Traore, Contributing Writer

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Natalie Rodriguez and lab assistant Altarik Banks working on a 3D dress. Photo courtesy of Mike Peters
Natalie Rodriguez and lab assistant Altarik Banks working on a 3D dress.
Photo courtesy of Mike Peters

Since its opening in September of last year, Montclair State University’s first MIX 3D printing lab helped bring to life various creations, including a 3D printed dress.

As an open resource for the University, the lab has also been used by a local fashion designer not affiliated with the school who wanted to seize the opportunity of making real-life designs by using the 3D printing devices.

This past spring semester, local entrepreneur Natalie Rodriguez became a resident of the 3D MIX lab. Collaborating with one of the student lab assistants, Altarik Banks, she was able to create a 3D dress.

As “it was a one-time thing [since there is] no structure to [an actual residency program],” according to Professor Frasca, Rodriguez was permitted to utilize the lab, free of charge, for her creation.

“For a couple of months, we were testing different strategies on how to make the dress possible…a lot of setting, manipulation and print testing [to find out] what works,” Banks revealed.

After several trials and failures, they were able to find a way of creating it. The dress is made out of PLA plastic, which is the standard material for use with fifth-generation replicator printers.

“The dress that we designed is more of a conceptual piece,” Banks pointed out, as it is not made to be worn as a regular piece of clothing. In addition to the dress, they also made shoes.

The 3D MIX lab, located in room 120 on the bottom floor in the Feliciano School of Business, houses thirty-five 3D printing devices of various types, but mostly fifth-generation MakerBot Replicator desktop 3D printers.

“3D printing is additive technology that enables anybody to create virtually anything, from anywhere using digital files with CADD software,” said Professor Jason Frasca, entrepreneurship instructor and co-director of the 3D printing MIX lab with the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship in the School of Business.

The lab, open Monday through Friday this semester, is staffed by professors as well as student assistants. Professor Iain Kerr co-directs the lab with Frasca and is the associate director of Innovation Design.

“We recruit them based on performance and interest,” says Frasca about the student assistants. “They each work three hours per week.”

Alongside Banks and working as lab assistants are Montclair State students Josh Miller and Vinny Monaco. Miller and Banks both took entrepreneurship courses with Frasca, which is how they became involved with the lab.

Monaco, on the other hand, shared that he started designing on his own and was allowed to print his creations.
According to Banks, “curiosity and [being] willing to learn” are all that are needed for anyone to create and make their designs come to life.

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