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3D printer recreates the past

February 19, 2016

Picture of Old Main that was used to make an accurate draft of the window frames with the 3D printed frames on the right.

The Department of Theatre is ahead of the times recently investing in a 3D printer. Initially bought to help with the set and prop building process, Doug Rankin, Theatre Department Chair, thought of another use for the new printer. Rankin and sophomore Morgan Holle, mathematics and secondary education major, will work with two other students on a Summer Opportunity for Intellectual Activity (SOfIA) project utilizing the 3D printer.

“For the SOfIA project, we are planning on building a 3D model of the “Old Main” building which stood where Wallace Hall stands now. The idea is that this summer Old Main will be built and in future years other buildings can be added to create a historically accurate model of the campus,” Holle explained.

Holle has been working with Rankin through an independent study this semester with computer-aided drafting. Rankin discussed the idea of the SOfIA project as an interesting way to learn three-dimensional drafting. “I am working on drafting the building on the computer using old photographs so that when SOfIA starts we will be ready to begin building the 3D model.”

Rankin’s plan for SOfIA is to take students on a field trip to Chicago to look at dioramas at the History Museum and return to campus to build. After talking to Richard Sayre, Director of Hewes Library, the finished Old Main model will be put on display in the library. “We plan to build mostly Old Main and the surrounding campus right now,” said Rankin. “Possibly in future years we can add the auditorium and other buildings. The trick is deciding on an interesting year.”

3D printer from the Department of Theatre


Rankin and Holle are faced with challenges figuring out the proportions of the building. Holle said, “The most challenging part of this project is getting accurate measurements for the building using only old photographs so that when the parts are printed they will be historically accurate.”

Researching the history of campus for her independent study, Holle said, ”The most interesting thing to me is seeing how ornate the details were in Old Main.”

The 3D printer is currently printing intricate pieces of the building, such as the window frames, which take about an hour per frame. Completing drafted versions of Old Main will ensure everything is ready to build come August. SOfIA beings the first week of August.

Miranda Jones
Features Editor

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