Updated 12-12-14
NMSU-Grants Robotics & Automation/Electronics Technology Department
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Details for the 3D printing course. Details for the robotics course.
ELT 265 Special Topics: Intro to 3D Printing
Tuesdays 5:30 - 7:15 pm, 1 credit, Community Education option is available.
No prerequisite.
Textbook: SketchUp 2014 for Dummies, ISBN-13: 978-1118822661 (a Kindle edition is also available)
Room 50 (electronics lab, at south end of main building, ground floor).
(This course is temporarily offered through the Robotics and Automation/Electronics Technology Department because we're using 3D printing to make parts for our robotics courses. In the future, it will probably be offered through the drafting &/or art departments.)

The Intro to 3D Printing course is intended for the layperson, and is highly individualized.
It can be repeated many times, with your skills being developed on a continuing basis. Here are some of the areas for which 3D printing is used:
  • Jewelry.
  • Crafts of all kinds.
  • Creation of items for general use, such as cell phone cases, pots for plants, serving dishes, containers of all kinds, toothbrush holders, pet dishes, pencil holders, and a huge number of other things.
  • Parts to replace ones that have been broken.
  • Parts for custom-designed robot mechanisms.
  • Rapid prototyping.
  • Medical prosthetics for people who have lost hands, feet, etc. (Designs for many of these can be downloaded for free on the Internet, and then printed out in plastic.)
  • Creating scaffoldings for growing human replacement organs. (Currently being researched intensively.)
3D printing is a type of additive manufacturing, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing (such as lathes and milling machines). The two 3D printers used at the college are plastic-filament printers. A heated nozzle melts plastic filament (similar to weed-whacker line), which is then forced through a very small opening. This nozzle is moved around under control of a computer to lay down a thin layer of the desired shape onto a build plate. The build plate is lowered a tiny amount after each layer is deposited. The result is a solid piece of plastic that matches the design created with 3D modeling software. Google Sketchup is the 3D modeling software used for this course. There is a free version that is adequate for most needs.

Operation of a 3D printer is something a person can learn in half an hour or so. The real challenge of 3D printing is in using the 3D modeling software. With such software, you use the mouse to draw outlines of objects, which are then given thickness by other mouse movements. The object you're creating can be rotated and viewed from any angle. Once you've finished designing the object, the resulting computer file is put into a 3D printer and printed.

You'll be able to purchase plastic ($15 to $20 a pound) if you desire to keep objects you've created. Most objects can basically be hollow (with honeycombing inside), and they use very little plastic. The ability to do such honeycombing (without the use of glue) is unique to 3D printing.

Previous experience with computers is highly desirable, but if you're willing to give it a try, I'll help you gain the necessary computer skills. The main thing needed both by experienced computer users and by novices--is patience. However, if you tend to have a short fuse, this class could help you become a more patient person. Computer graphics, and especially 3D graphics, is more complex than word processing and it can make you frustrated if you let it. However, I've had many years of experience helping students succeed with computer graphics. And, I pride myself on being a very patient instructor. All that's needed on your part is a willingness to let me guide you.

Bruce McDowell
ELT 265 Special Topics: Robotics I
First 8 weeks, MWF 3:30 - 5:45 pm, 2 credits.
No prerequisite.
Textbook: SketchUp 2014 for Dummies, ISBN-13: 978-1118822661 (a Kindle edition is also available)
Room 50 (electronics lab, at south end of main building, ground floor).
Small hobby robots such as the Arduino Robot are used as a base for projects involving control programming, electronics, and mechanisms. 3D printing is used for mechanism parts.

Several robots are available, so that there is one robot for every one to three students. The emphasis is on writing original programs, designing electronics, designing mechanisms, and creating 3D-printed objects for mechanisms that you've designed. No prior knowledge is required. In the Robotics I course, much time will be spent learning the basics of programming, electronics, mechanisms, and 3D printing. As much as possible, the knowledge you've gained will be used for actual robotics experiments.

ELT 265 Special Topics: Robotics II
Second 8 weeks, MWF 3:30 - 5:45 pm, 2 credits.
Textbook: SketchUp 2014 for Dummies, ISBN-13: 978-1118822661 (a Kindle edition is also available)
No prerequisite.
Room 50.
This is a continuation of Robotics I. Emphasis is on programing, electronics, and mechanisms with the degree of complexity equaling or approaching that found in industry and research.

Both of the above robotics courses are part of a new Robotics & Automation Electronics Certificate. See the 2014-2016 Course Catalog for details.

Many colleges are good at turning out electronics engineers & technicians, and mechanical engineers & technicians. However, there is a need for people who know both disciplines. Todays industry depends heavily on robotics and automation, where mechanical machines are controlled by computers and electronics. In the northwestern part of our state, companies such as the Escalante power plant and the Bio Pappel paper plant need employees who can troubleshoot and maintain mechanical machines that are controlled by electronics and computers.

Other Web Sites

"My NMSU" Web Site NMSU-Grants Web Site 
Severe Weather?
To find out if classes have been canceled because of snow, etc., go to Channel 4's Web site and click their school closings link.

Web Sites for Past Courses

General electronics Web links