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U Of I To Offer 3D Printing Class

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Vishal Sachdev

U of I Professor Vishal Sachdev holds up a gnome created in the new 3D printing lab in the Business Instructional Facility on the university's campus. (Sean Powers/WILL)

3D printers are changing the way many people do business. The machines that create toys, guns and even human bones are also changing the way students learn in the classroom.

Bryan Wilcox runs The Product Manufactory, a company in Urbana that specializes in helping people create products from scratch. Just about everything he works on starts off as a prototype that is not displayed as a graphic or drawing, but a physical object made using a 3D printer.

“If I’m interviewing for a new hire, and it’s someone from one of these technical design fields,” Wilcox explained. “If they do not have experience working with 3D printers and understanding that chain, I probably won’t hire them.”

That is something the University of Illinois’ College of Business understands. By next semester, it is offering a 3D printing class to 21 students from engineering, art and design, and business. They will come up with a product that they can show off using a 3D printer.

“So, they’ll do a needs assessment. They’ll do prototyping. Maybe do focus group interviews,” said Vishal Sachdev, the director of the College of Business’ new 3D printing lab. Sachdev is is helping lead the class.

“They don’t even need to sell the product,” he added. “They can sell the design now. You know, there are websites that says put up your design here. We can print it in 15 different materials, and you get money for your intellectual property in creating that design.”

That is a design using technology that is reshaping business, and now business education.