Fontys University takes NEXT steps into hands-on training
January 29, 2018 / by 3devo
The NEXT filament maker has become a part of the polymer studies department at Fontys University of Applied Sciences, where students are using it to acquire hands-on training in material extrusion and recycling. As a cost-effective, small-scale setup, it facilitates thorough, practical training and minimizes the university’s dependence on complex, large-scale extrusion machinery.
Proactive, future-oriented education that can contribute to a sustainable society has always been the goal for Fontys, one of the largest educational institutes in the Netherlands. This reflects in each of the university’s 200+ programs, which together account for an intake of over 44,000 students. The Natural Science wing of Fontys, located in Eindhoven, is one of the only institutes in the world to offer bachelor’s courses in polymer studies. Here, students use 3D printing to enhance polymers and develop sustainable solutions for the rapidly evolving additive manufacturing industry.
The polymer studies department at Fontys needed an accessible, user-friendly device that could thoroughly train students in material development and extrusion. Before purchasing the NEXT, the university had been relying on large-scale extrusion machinery, which did not provide much flexibility or support hands-on training. This typically resulted in a steep learning curve, not only for the students, but also for the faculty who would be training them. By extension, relying on industrial extrusion equipment led to a drain on the university’s time and resources. Guido Smets, project leader and researcher at Fontys emphasizes:
”We try to incorporate upcoming technologies such as 3D printing in our curriculum, studying it theoretically, and researching its applications. Our students use the NEXT to experiment with filament extrusion, exploring its applications in 3D printing and elsewhere.”
Guido Smets, polymer researcher/professor at Fontys, uses the NEXT to demostrate polymer extrusion to his polymer studies students.
It was at the 2016 edition of the Kunststoffen EXPO that the Fontys faculty first noticed the NEXT. As an extruder that could process small batches of filament, it promised them the flexibility to work with multiple polymers, as well as the ability to serve as an effective educational tool for the students. It could help polymer studies students in conducting research, without consuming too much time or material. In addition to this, adding a NEXT extruder to the Fontys lab would also be significantly cheaper than continuing to depend on industrial extrusion equipment.
The NEXT being used to extrude small batches of material for polymer research projects by Fontys students.
The NEXT has been a core component of the polymer research facility at Fontys since December 2016. In less than a year’s time, it has significantly streamlined training and research, and has helped the university save time and money. Thanks to its small-scale processing ability, students can work with as little as 1kg of material at a time. They can also understand the process of extrusion in much more detail – something that complex extrusion machinery could not offer.
To date, over 20 students at Fontys have successfully polymer research projects using the NEXT. The simplicity and accessibility of the extruder has allowed them to fine-tune settings and get results in quick time. Some of the exciting projects that the NEXT has contributed to include studying the recyclability of PLA and PET, extruding custom materials for 3D printing nano tubes, and conducting tests on innovative polymer-cellulose composites.
Researchers an students at Fontys will use the NEXT to develop sustainable polymer-cellulose composites in the near future.
We are sure that this is only the beginning, and look forward to seeing the NEXT help Fontys University go from strength to strength in the years to come.