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Capstone project aims to reduce 3-D printing waste

Burnsville High School senior Andrew Carlson says about one in every four items printed in the school’s 3-D printers fails, and the plastic filament used to make that item is wasted. If he and classmate Lyla Lichliter, a junior, succeed in their capstone engineering project, that waste will be a thing of the past.

Andrew and Lyla are in a class called “Engineering, Design and Development,” which sits at the top of the school’s design, engineering and manufacturing-related Pathways. The year-long capstone course asks students, working in a team, to research, design and construct a solution to an engineering problem of their choice.

As engineering students, recycling that wasted filament was a problem they had right in front of them. Of course, it’s not that no one has come up with a way to recycle 3-D printing filament.

“How can we make ours stand out,” Lyla said about clarifying their problem, with Andrew adding that other designs are expensive and not necessarily fast at producing usable filament.

Among the problems their design needs to solve are breaking down the once-used filament, pushing it through an extruder quickly without creating any bubbles, and spooling it to be used by the printer again.

Most of the first semester of the class is spent on research and design. Over the next months, they’ll work to build a prototype. It’s a lot of work and mostly independent, with guidance from engineering teacher Orion Patrie. Despite the difficulty, they would recommend the class to younger students.

“There’s a lot of problem solving and planning out the next move,” Andrew said. “You learn to be a flexible thinker.”

Lyla’s future plans likely revolve around automotive engineering, a passion she says she’s discovered this year at BHS. Andrew is looking at colleges and still exploring his options, with continuing to study engineering among them.

Learn more about Pathways at Burnsville High School at www.isd191.org/pathways.

Posted: Wednesday, February 13, 2019 - 09:28