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UWF graphic design students contribute to Pensacon using 3-D printing technology

March 1, 2018 | By: Jordan Ardoin |

3D prints designed by UWF students for Pensacon.
3D prints designed by UWF students for Pensacon.

On Feb. 22, 2018, UWF’s Innovation Institute hosted an evening with “Star Trek” actor Robert Picardo as part of the pop culture convention Pensacon. The event included a tour of the Innovation Institute, a photo with Picardo, and a souvenir bag, which featured limited-edition figurines created by UWF graphic design students.

Leading up to the event, Thomas Asmuth, UWF associate professor of art who teaches digital and experimental media, tasked his students with designing their own “Star Trek”-themed figurines using the 3-D printing facilities at UWF’s digital lab on campus and the Sea3D Additive Manufacturing Lab.

Of fourteen designs submitted by students, Asmuth chose five to be produced en masse and distributed to attendees of the Pensacon event. The five students chosen were Ashlyn Sireno, Kennedy Reed, Kevin O’Leary, William Kober and Bethanie Lee.

Students used 3-D sculpting programs, such as MeshMixer, to digitally design their pieces, which they then printed at one of UWF’s 3-D printing facilities. Once their pieces were printed, the students added finish and paint by hand.

The students’ figurines included everything from alien creatures in the “Star Trek” universe to stylized recreations of iconic symbolism from the franchise.

Lee, who had limited experience with 3-D printing before working on her Pensacon project, recognized it as a valuable hands-on learning opportunity.

She says, “The program Thomas showed us that could be used for the project was completely new to me.”

As she worked on her “Star Trek” figurine, Lee gained extensive knowledge of how 3-D printing works and what she can do with it as a graphic designer. Specifically, she discovered stereolithography (known commonly as SLA 3-D printing), which uses layers of hardened resin to make the shape being printed. Lee says this knowledge enabled her to create a more detailed, intricate figure than she would have been able to create before.

On her own piece and the artistic possibilities her new 3-D printing expertise unlocked, Lee says, “I really stick by the idea of do what your heart desires when you start a project. If I had not done something my ambitious heart wanted, I would not have made something detailed.”

Through their work with Pensacon, Lee and her fellow students were able to showcase their own skills and potential as graphic designers on a semi-professional project. Simultaneously, they provided an example of UWF’s efforts to provide access to and education about cutting-edge technologies for students across all disciplines.  

Asmuth believes the opportunity to contribute to Pensacon will benefit his students in their future design careers.

He says, “There’s a real-world application of their skills and talent, and then interaction with a client to deliver a product, which will benefit them well after graduation, having that experience.”