"Growing Gears" 3D Printing STEM Initiative

State Renewable Energy designs and builds 3D printing labs and training programs for educational institutions through a STEM initiative we call Growing Gears. Utilizing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), this program emphasizes a sustainable approach to integrating twenty-first century technologies into the learning environment. The goal for our program is to enable students to 3D print gears, tools, machines, robots, and other designs, while using plant-based, biodegradable materials, essentially “growing the gears” they need, while being supported by renewable energy and conservation techniques when possible. This program helps students become competitive in the global economy through the development of skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, research, and innovation. With a foundation rooted in computer science, Growing Gears is about engaging student interest in areas such as architecture, engineering, and advanced manufacturing. The program is designed to promote and encourage the development of a qualified and skilled STEM workforce.

Components of 3D Printing

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Additive Manufacturing (AM) refers to the group of technologies used to create 3D objects by adding material layer by layer. 3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing. There are many different types of 3D printing technologies. These technologies include Stereolithography Apparatus (SLA), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Selective Laser Melting (SLM), Digital Light Processing (DLP) and Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). Each technology uses a different method to produce a print. Some technologies use liquid resins while others use spools of plastic. The most common 3D printing technology used in schools is Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM). This technology uses a heated extruder to melt plastic, referred to as filament, allowing it to be deposited onto the build plate in layers. The layers fuse together as they cool, creating a solid structure. These printers commonly have a single extruder, while some models do feature dual extruders. The additional extruder allows for the use of dissolvable support materials, making it possible to print intricate designs.  When comparing FDM printers, consider the size of the machine and bulid plate, the time it takes to print, the noise level, the enclosure, the types of filament it accepts, its durability, its ease-of-use, and the accessibility of parts and filament.


Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) uses plastic filament as its source of feedstock, much like an inkjet printer uses ink. This filament usually comes in spools and is made from a thermoplastic polymer.  This means the plastic becomes pliable when heated and solidifies as it cools. The two most common types of filament for FDM printers are ABS and PLA. ABS stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. This material is impact resistant and strong, but it does release significant amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) when heated.  PLA stands for polylactic acid. It is a biodegradable, plant-based plastic, commonly made from corn or sugarcane, and can therefore be composted or recycled. PLA releases substantially fewer VOC’s than ABS. These plastics can be infused with a wide variety of other materials such as wood fibers, carbon, and even metals such as bronze, copper, and silver.  Different materials possess different characteristics.  For example, carbon infused filament is very strong, wood infused filament can be sanded, and copper infused filament can be polished to shine.  Filament can also be made with other materials, such as nylon or polycarbonate, and they can even be glow-in-the-dark or magnetic.


3D Computer Graphics are the foundation of 3D printing. Every 3D print starts with a computer-generated 3D model of the object. The 3D model provides the blueprint that instructs the 3D printer what to build. There are many 3D modeling programs available. An important aspect of the 3D modeling program is that it must be able to export files that are compatible with the 3D printer’s slicing program. A slicing program, or slicer, renders the 3D model into a format that can be read by the 3D printer. File types that are commonly compatible with slicing programs include STL and OBJ.


3D printing can revolutionize the way students learn. Architecture students can print 3D models of buildings rather than construct them from popsicle sticks and cardboard. These designs can be viewed a virtual reality setting, giving the viewer an unprecedented experience. Engineering students can experiment with the strength, stability, and construction of different geometrical shapes and structures, possibly leading to the next breakthrough in construction design.


Instruction for Green Architecture will teach about sustainable buildings that can be designed to integrate the use of green building materials, water efficiency, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.  This introduces students to the integration of features such as low-flow faucets, LED lighting, reclaimed materials, building-integrated photovoltaics, and rooftop gardens.  This instruction will explain the technologies used in developing green buildings as well as the engineering needed for both newly constructing and retrofitting buildings.


3D Printers in Action

This video demonstrates Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printers and objects they can print.  It gives an understanding of how 3D printers work, depositing plastic layer by layer to create a structure.  Ranging in size and purpose, 3D printers can build everything from stationary objects to complex machines, including robotic components that use flexible materials.

3D Modeling in Action

This video shows 3D modeling examples and the different techniques used to create and move objects.  It displays animated simulations and various ways to interact with a 3D program using a variety of touchscreen devices.  From the simple to the complex, 3D Computer Graphics provide the instructions which enable 3D printers to turn virtual designs into reality.

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3D Printed Objects

The capabilities and versatility of 3D printers can be used in a wide variety of applications.  Pictured here is a shoe that was 3D printed using PolyJet technology.  This technology uses curable liquid photopolymers that allow for the production of detailed and sophiscticated prints that can feature a vareity of colors and materials.  Some designs are contiguous while others are printed individually and then assembled together.  Whether creating an artistic rendition or specialized part, 3D printing will play an important role in the future of design and manufacturing.

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3D STEM Learning Labs

State Renewable Energy designs customized, high performance STEM Learning Labs that bring students access to advanced 3D printing and computer technologies.  Each workstation provides students with access to a computer and 3D printer.  A one-to-one student to technology ratio is important for students to be able to interact with the technology directly.

About Us

State Renewable Energy provides consultation and design services for renewable energy applications as well as STEM-based trainings and instructional services for k-12 and higher education. We use advanced technologies to integrate the use of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable practices into our projects. Thinking ahead, we always look for effective ways to incorporate sustainability into everyday life. We stay on top of the latest developments, constantly researching new ideas in order to provide our clients with the best opportunities available.

Every project is approached with a combination of knowledge, experience, and innovation.  With an emphasis on education, our goal is to enable people to become environmentally responsible and live sustainably.

Contact Us

Office: (877) 944-7749

Email: contact@staterenewableenergy.com