Xavier's Center for Innovation Adds MakerBot Innovation Center

People living in Ohio have a lot of pride for their state, which is understandable when it is so easy to find inspiration everywhere. Murphy Company holds the Buckeye State particularly near and dear to our hearts, and that is why we are excited to share that Cincinnati, Ohio based Xavier University purchased a MakerBot Innovation Center for their own Center for Innovation (CFI). The Innovation Center comes complete with thirty one MakerBot Replicator 3D Printers (twenty five desktop, three Z18s, and three mini compacts), three MakerBot Digitizer desktop scanners, a large supply of MakerBot PLA filament, and software to manage the entire system. I had the pleasure of speaking with Shawn Nason, director of the CFI, to learn more about innovation, MakerBot, what this integration means for Xavier, and to dispel some myths about 3D printing.

Meeting Up with MakerBot

In early January, a small group from Xavier consisting of Nason; Annette Marksberry, Assistant Provost and CIO for the university; and Carol Maegly, Assistant Vice President for Provost Budget & Planning; set off to Las Vegas to attend the largest Consumer Electronics Show in the world.

The annual conference is devoted to everything and anything within the world of consumer electronics, from the latest wearable technology and phone apps to the future of audio and video. A decent sized section of the event is dedicated to the ever growing 3D printing industry, and that is where 'X' marked the spot for the Xavier group.

"Our intentions when we went there were not to strike up or make any deals.  I had attended before, but [Marksberry] and [Maegly] had never been, so the mindset was to go out there for two and a half days, immerse them into what it was like, and to help open up our eyes to where we could go in education."

Upon arriving at the conference, they were initially drawn to MakerBot's eye-catching pavilion, and decided to stop in to have a brief conversation with the company. That evening, the Xavier group committed to purchasing the Innovation Center, and by the next morning, they had signed the deal. They were now the proud owners of a piece of history.

Xavier's Center for Innovation

For most people, committing and signing a deal this large within twenty four hours of hearing about it is considered spontaneous, but Xavier is no stranger to 3D printers. Professor of mathematics and computer science, Gary Lewondowski, bought one in 2012 and librarian, Alison Morgan, applied for a grant to create a MakerSpace within the main library. After receiving the grant approval, she added two printers to the university's catalog. Coincidentally, all three printers happened to be MakerBots.

With all of this attention spent on ingenuity and cutting edge technology, it is no surprise that in 2014 when a rash of colleges began closing their doors, Xavier developed a plan to increase revenue for the school while also benefitting the student body. That is where Nason came into play.

"I was brought in to look at creating non-traditional revenue streams for the university," claims Nason.

CFI works specifically with the health care industry, higher education space, and what Nason refers to as the, "innovation igniter" space. They provide training and development around innovation practices and capabilities.

Those outside of Xavier's academic community are not excluded from using their services. In fact, a fair amount of companies work with them, including architecture firms and print shops, to name a few. They even printed fossil bones for the Cincinnati Museum Center.

The Future of 3D Printing

In the ever expanding 3D marketplace, my exposure to different perspectives and directions grow as Murphy Company ventures further into this arena. At the time of this interview we are also in discussions to represent MakerBot as another addition to our 3D product line. The expansion does come with a common concern voiced from those new to the community. "Will 3D printing be something that is really going to stick around, or in time, will the spools run bare for good?"

Our confidence in this area is rooted in witnessing a twenty five year old technology being updated, utilized and brought to the forefront of innovation by educational institutions like Xavier, and thought leaders like Nason. Having accomplished so much in such a short time, I was curious to know where he thought the technology was heading.

"I believe that 3D printing is just really a disrupter to all industries. This next week we'll be speaking at South by Southwest, and we are talking about innovation detonation. I honestly believe that it has so many applicable uses in innovation and industries."

He recounted a story to me about a project that an Intro to Making class has been working on:

"They are literally doing all kinds of cool creations. A very cool project that they're working on right now is helping build a prosthetic for a dog. It has not been completed yet, but they are in the process of designing it to create a front, right paw for a Golden Retriever named 'Tiny.'" [read more about Tiny here]

From creating prosthetics in the healthcare industry to printing food, drill bits or anything else one can think up, 3D printing and creative thinking go hand-in-hand. Nason tells me that, when it comes to innovation, his mission is simple:

"St Ignacious Layola is quoted for saying, 'go forth and set the world on fire.' We want to find and help find the spark in every individual to create that fire."

For more information on Xavier's Innovative efforts, head to the Center for Innovation website or Shawn Nason's blog.

#MC3DP #MCEducation #Innovation #EducationAnd3DPrinting

This week's article is part of our series on 'Education and 3D Printing.' Published by Kevin Murray.