ATHEN, Ala. (WHNT) - When most people think of printers, they think of ink on paper. Some local high school students though are using a special 3D printer to build models they can hold - as well as a bright future.
Inside the Limestone County Career Technical Center, area high school students like Justus Looney can design an object using computer software, then "put it on a flash drive and send it over to the 3D printer and it prints it layer by layer."
As educator Brian Terry explained, making models on-site gives students a huge advantage entering college or the workforce. LCCTC is one of only a handful of learning centers across Alabama with a three dimensional printer and as a result, "A lot of [our kids] are able to go right into work when they come out of high school because of the experience and work level that they have."
3D printers are typically very expensive and as a result, aren't usually something students are exposed to until they are employed in engineering or related fields.
Katie Pepper, another local student familiar with the printing technology said holding a model in 3D lets students gauge size instantly, as well as durability.
"We could draw these things all day but if you never really hold it in your hand you never see what you're actually doing," Pepper explained.
There's also the ability to make revisions right away and consult with other students and educators about different engineering approaches. Looney for example, needed a couple of tries before getting a hard drive cover "just right." The first version was too flimsy and broke quickly. After a few revisions, he ended up with a sturdy case to be proud of.
It's an experience he and others his age will be able to draw on, when competing with fellow students for jobs in the industry.