Case Study: Building a 3D Printing Hub for the Innovators of Tomorrow
| by MakerBot
About Florida Polytechnic University
Florida Polytechnic University, the 12th and newest member of the State University System of Florida, is dedicated to hands-on learning and applied research in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). Students concentrate on subjects from big data to nanotechnology and, through project-based learning and internships with industry partners, develop into innovative problem-solvers and high-tech professionals. Located in Lakeland, halfway between Tampa and Orlando in the Florida High Tech Corridor, Florida Poly opened with more than 500 students in August 2014.
As an ambitious new university, Florida Poly needed to establish a rigorous program of study while attracting students and faculty interested in hands-on STEM learning and entrepreneurial spirit. “At Florida Poly, students are building stuff from the day they get on campus,” says President Randy K. Avent. The university needed to show that it is different from traditional schools, and a model for the future of education. “We get to start from scratch,” says Avent. “So we get to build the programs exactly like we want to build them. We get to grow the infrastructure.”
Florida Poly erected a signature, state-of-the-art main building that turns heads on Interstate 4, and needed to equip its labs with emerging technologies that will shape the careers of the next generation of engineers and entrepreneurs. Florida Poly also wanted to deepen relationships with its dozens of industry partners, and to make its students attractive candidates for internships and jobs.
For its grand opening in the fall of 2014, Florida Poly partnered with MakerBot, a global leader in desktop 3d printing, and acquired a MakerBot Innovation Center with more than 50 MakerBot Replicator® 3D Printers. The university placed this makerspace at the center of its main instructional building, across the hall from an IBM supercomputer. “This is the time to be out in front, investing in technologies that are sustainable trends,” says Tom Hull, Florida Poly’s vice president and chief information officer.
Hull says that Florida Poly decided to partner with MakerBot because of “the success they’ve had in the marketplace, their understanding of what we needed to connect the technology with the curriculum. And we wanted to build capacity.”
Florida Poly’s MakerBot Innovation Center has the full range of fifth-generation MakerBot technology — MakerBot Replicator Mini Compact 3D Printers, MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printers, and MakerBot Replicator Z18 3D Printers— networked together on the MakerBot Innovation Center Management Platform, a seamless software solution for administering a large group of MakerBot Replicators. The Innovation Center package also included installation, support, and several weeks of MakerBot learning sessions.
The MakerBot Innovation Center “gives our students, our faculty, and our partners experience in doing something that is state of the art and in demand,” says Hull. Professors can integrate 3D printing into research and coursework, and classes can meet in the makerspace, with each student getting one- to-one, hands-on experience with a 3D printer. “A hands-on, PC-based computer lab at a university — that was advanced technology in 1980,” says Hull. “This is the new technology for the future.” The makerspace is open to all students, so everyone has the opportunity to create objects that have never been created before. Students can develop skills useful for finding jobs and internships — or for launching a new business.
Florida Poly’s announcement of its MakerBot Innovation Center brought the young university global press coverage, and the makerspace is a highlight of campus tours. “Having the largest MakerBot space in the country here on our campus is invaluable for the recruitment process,” says Scott Rhodes, vice provost of enrollment at Florida Poly. Prospective students “are just blown away. In their minds, they are thinking about what they can build.” Their parents, meanwhile, are thinking about the jobs that will follow the degree. And everyone can see that Florida Poly is different.
In less than a year, Florida Poly has seen a strong return on its investment in its partnership with MakerBot, and this relationship will only get deeper. A MakerBot Innovation Center allows Florida Poly to print large, complex objects, and the fifth- generation MakerBot technology gives the university the flexibility to enjoy further improvements and innovations. “We don’t necessarily know where this is going to go in three or five years from now,” says Hull, but a MakerBot Innovation Center is something the university “can build upon for years to come.”
MakerBot, a subsidiary of Stratasys Ltd. (Nasdaq: SSYS), is a global leader in the desktop 3D printing industry and was founded in 2009 as one of the first companies to make 3D printing accessible and affordable. MakerBot now has one of the largest install bases and market shares of the desktop 3D printing industry, with more than 80,000 MakerBot 3D printers in the world and a robust MakerBot 3D ecosystem that combines hardware, software, apps like MakerBot PrintShop® and MakerBot Mobile, materials, training, support, consulting, retail stores, partnerships, and Thingiverse, the world’s largest 3D printing community, in order to make 3D printing easy and accessible for everyone. Popular Science’s “Product of the Year,” and Fast Company’s “One of the World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Consumer Electronics.”
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