It looks like a coffee machine. But the nondescript grey box tucked against a wall in Bldg 743, is actually a 3D printer. It’s in relatively high demand by scientists and engineers building beamlines for the National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II).
“They use it to test their ideas before committing to final designs,” said mechanical designer Leo Reffi. All print jobs are monitored by Reffi.
“After getting a few jobs printed on the outside and evaluating our needs for about a year, the design group acquired the printer in June 2012. Now it’s pretty much running all the time,” said Reffi, who joined the Lab in 2008 with design experience on 3D printers. In between print jobs, he provides design support for NSLS-II beamlines IXS and CHX.
While Brookhaven’s industrial placement needs these printers — the Instrumentation Division uses them for work on the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and Central Fabrication Services has one —Reffi said that lower-end 3D printers are beginning to appear in residential areas. They can vary in price from a low $300 for a beginner to a much higher $3,000 for an enthusiast. Brookhaven’s Science Learning Center is using 3D printers for a course with both teachers and students.