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Q&A with Matthew Romer ’18, Print Leader from Princeton 3D Printing

Princeton 3D Printing is a student organization that aims to make 3D printing technology available to the Princeton community. To learn more about this fascinating technology and organization, Associate Street Editor Harrison Blackman sat down with Matthew Romer ’18, a 'Print Leader' in the club.

Daily Princetonian: Can you tell me a little bit of background about 3D Printing Club?

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Matthew Romer ’18: 3D Printing Club is a few years old; actually, I don’t know the exact number. It kind of went through two phases. There was an initial phase of just trying to get 3D printers on campus, and that was done by people who were seniors last year, so who just graduated, who really fought for getting access to this technology. They got printers set up in Rockefeller College and in Forbes College, but my sense is that ...they didn’t quite figure out how to turn that into a more serious club with a lot of outreach, with a lot of activity.Last year, they were kind of heading out, and so there were a lot of freshmen who were interested in taking over… basically, pretty much the entire officer corps is class of 2018. And with that, we had a huge boom in membership; we’re doing a lot of activities, we’re getting a lot more use out of the printers. Our mission is to bring the technology of 3D printing to as many people as we can. We want to show as many people how to 3D print [as possible], we want to make it accessible to people, and we’re also all in this club because we want to do our own projects and do our own work with 3D printing. It’s about teaching others and making others better at this technology and using this technology.

DP: How many students are in the club?

MR: There are over 100 on the listserv, in general. There are between 20 and 30 print leaders, and a few officers on top of that. So I would say 30 very core members, and sort of a large, general membership. It’s a structure that works fairly well.

DP: When do you all meet?

MR: So actually as a club, we don’t have any kind of meeting structure. The club works to maintain the printers, to keep the printers going. Everyone is always printing their own personal projects, printing projects for members who want to print thingsbut don’t know how to print, and then the way we organize ourselves is just we send emails, people come up with group projects, people come up with outreach events and we organize around those. It’s a very free-flowing club; it’s a very dynamic club. We don’t have kind of every week we sit down together and have a meeting, but we’re always doing a lot of stuff.

DP: What is the academic background of students in the club?

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MR: I would say the core membership is engineers, and I think, as you would probably expect, we have really strong ties with the mechanical and aerospace engineering department, just because that’s the group to which the technology is most relevant. There’s a surprising breadth to the members … a lot of people seem to be interested in biology and bio-focused applications, so people are interested in printing neural structures, or [they] want to learn the technology because they are interested in later on working on cells or biotechnology. We’ve seen people who just want to do art projects with it. And we’ve seen people across the science and engineering background. But I would say, yeah, there’s certainly a strong correlation.

DP: Can you explain what print leaders do?

MR: Print leaders are people who are fully trained on the printers. They’re fully trained on both how to print but also how to maintain the printers, how to fix problems when they arise. The idea is that the print leaders are kind of intermediaries between members and anyone in the public and the actual printing — for a long time we had a system in which anyone could just print [after a one hour training system]. There was some friction with the residential colleges on that. Rocky and Forbes have printers, and so they were worried that … too many people were getting access [to the printers]. The print leader system was created to pacify the colleges, but also to build a corps of really expert people who could be the teachers. There’s no test to be a print leader; we arrange training sessions if you want to be one, and that’s all you have to do.

DP: Does the club host events?

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MR: We do a lot of things. The biggest kind of general event we do is something called a “Printing Party.” That’s usually held as a study break; the idea is we’ll come up with some kind of interesting thing to print. We’ll get funding from [Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students], we’ll get food and we’ll just invite people from our listserv and often the people from the residential college that we’re in. People can come, they can watch the print happen, they can get some food, they can get a study break and it’s a great time to tell people what we’re doing and introduce people to this new technology and show everyone what’s up.

We also do more focused projects and more focused events. So what I’m really excited about and what’s coming up – it’s contingent on getting some funding locked down. We’re planning over Intersession to hold a course. The course will be to build a 3D printer from scratch. And so, that seems like it’s going to be an awesome thing, and I’ve been helping to plan that for several weeks now, and if it comes through, it’ll be a really cool thing to do. That’s the kind of project we get really excited about.

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