By: Genevieve Huang
On Wednesday, March 13, Tom Atchison, representing The Paton Group, the company responsible for the marketing and distribution, came to MSJHS to present a demonstration of a 3-D printer. Having found and sold four start-up companies in Silicon Valley, Tom Atchison is now working with The Paton Group to market a 3-D printer manufactured by Stratasys and also does STEM outreach to schools. The Smoke Signal took a moment to ask Atchison a few questions about the 3-D printer he will be leaving at MSJ for one or two weeks to allow students to explore the novel technology.
Smoke Signal: Can you give us a basic rundown on how it works?
TA: When you want to build something, you can virtually design the whole thing using a computer program, and export it using an .stl file. We take what we want, slice it up into thousandths of an inch, and replicate it [in this printer]. This printer is used to make models and workable parts. It’s got two types of glue guns—the glue gun squirts down little bits of plastic layer by layer. When you’re done, drop it into a bucket with some detergent to remove all the soluble stuff away, and you’re done. We use different materials based on applications; plastic will bounce, powdered things will shatter.
SS: How long has this printer been under development?
TA: About 15 years, but [this printer has] been on the market for 4 to 5 years.
SS: How do you see this printer being implemented into today’s industry? What are its applications?
TA: You won’t need the big factories anymore. I can customize an idea, put the design on the web, and send it to the fabricator which sells each one… Modern industries have already begun to implement this technology — hospitals are printing bladders using layers of skin cells.
SS: Who will be the printer’s primary audience?
TA: We aren’t targeting a specific audience; anyone can buy it, it just depends on what kind of material you need to make your product out of. For example, you wouldn’t use the model we brought today to produce anything made of metal. This unit here costs about $8000.
SS: Is the Paton Group looking into any more projects?
TA: Actually, Paton Group did not manufacture this unit, but I work with Paton Group to market and distribute it. This manufacturer is Stratasys, and Paton Group sells and services them. Stratasys does all kinds of things; you can Google the company and you’ll find all sorts of projects they are working on.