Alumnus donates 3-D printers to ACU

Dr. Hope Martin, director of the Occupational Therapy program, left, and Karisa Danley, Hilliard Office Solutions vice president of marketing, show one of the 3-D printers donated to ACU by alumnus Sterling Hilliard.

Thanks to a 2010 graduate of ACU, two academic departments now join the Maker Lab in offering innovative 3-D printing technology to students.

The Department of Engineering and Physics, the Department of Occupational Therapy and the Maker Lab each received a 3-D printer from Hilliard Office Solutions. Engineering and occupational therapy students will now have the opportunity to practice what they learn in the classroom with their own cutting-edge equipment.

Because the Maker Lab is open to all students, no matter their major, the whole campus will have the chance to use the technology as well.

Sterling Hilliard, a 2010 graduate of the College of Business and Administration, wanted to give back to his alma mater by donating the printers. His company, Hilliard Office Solutions, was founded by his father in 2005 and provides office equipment at six different locations in Texas. The company often donates equipment and provides training to schools, said Karisa Danley, vice president of marketing at Hilliard Office Solutions.

“Putting the printers here was Sterling’s heart for this school,” Danley said.

These commercial 3-D printers, called the CubePro, allow students to create plastic devices in three different colors. Their compact size fits easily into classrooms.

Dr. Marisa Beard, director of educational technology, said the news about the donation arrived just as she was wondering what technology could be purchased with the remains of the annual budget.

“It was pretty exciting to get [the printers] without them having to have it come out of our budget,” Beard said.

Beard told Dr. Hope Martin, director of the Master’s in Occupational Therapy program, that her department would now have its own 3-D printer. The department had previously used 3-D printers in the Maker Lab to create prosthetic hands and other health equipment. Click here to see OT students using 3-D printing technology.

“It just ties into our mission to be innovative and allows the students to come and explore more than they normally would,” Martin said. “I was also just really grateful that someone would want to give us one.”

Martin said engineering and occupational therapy collaborate well together because both fields use design to adapt devices for people. In the Bennett Gymnasium – which now houses lab space for the Department of Physics and Engineering – students already had access to older 3-D printers, but now they can work with the latest technology.

Dr. Jeff Arrington, director of engineering, said students practice making prototypes with 3-D printers before creating permanent devices. “We’re putting [new technology] in the hands of our students so I’m thrilled,” he said.