Dozens of intricate objects, from plastic coil springs to plaster trophies, line walls and tables. The small workshop, known as the Object Lab, is housed in Towson University’s Center for the Arts. It hums with the sound of multiple 3D printers and laser cutters, and the bustling students and interns who operate them.
The Object Lab opened in 2011 under the direction of Jan Baum, a renowned jewelry maker turned professor turned industrial designer. What started as a request for a single 3D printer for student use has evolved into a cutting-edge production resource for Maryland businesses, organizations and educational institutions. From digital files, the machines can carve or construct nearly any design.
“The whole world is engaging the design process. What designers do naturally, the world is now engaging because they need a different way to solve problems,” Baum said, explaining the growing need for her students’ and interns’ digital design and 3D printing skills.
Most of the students and interns associated with the lab are pursuing bachelor of fine arts degrees, but Baum said their training and understanding of the digital workflow will enable them to enter a variety of industrial fields.
“With this kind of lab, with six machines with four different printing technologies, we’re really training workforce leadership. These students really understand client-to-consumer products, from automotive to medical. They have the ability to apply these skills across industries. They’re really going to be heads and shoulders above others who may only have an engineering background,” she said.