BWSI 2018 Course - Hacking a 3D Printer

Additive Manufacturing (AM), and in particular 3D printing, has become a powerful tool in scientific, engineering, and industrial applications. As the technology becomes more pervasive, we continually look for applications and ways to use these tools in innovative ways. One of the key advantages to the open nature of this technology is the ability to modify a printer to operate in a way it was not originally intended.


In summer 2018, BWSI will host the new Hack a 3D Printer course. The goals of this course are to introduce the fundamentals of 3D printing, show way how hardware and software can be tuned for optimal performance, and teach techniques to modify these components to do something completely new. Along the way students will learn how to tackle a difficult problem like an engineer.


Teams of students will spend four weeks at MIT building, coding, using, and hacking their own 3D printers. The first week will be dedicated to the “nuts and bolts” of AM as students build their own printers. When the printers are complete, students learn how to use and tune these devices. The second week is dedicated to engineering and design principles as students tackle a number of team-based challenges. Using computer-aided design (CAD) the students will need to design and 3D print their own solutions to problems inspired by real life. Week 3 will focus on hardware and software modifications to the printers they have built. Starting with small instructor-led tweaks to improve performance, the students will ultimately plan a major hardware modification to their printers. The final week is dedicated to implementing their hardware modification and designing and printing an engineered solution with their “hacked” printer.





Online Course

Before arriving on campus students will be required to complete an online course on AM. The course will introduce students to key math, science, and engineering concepts that will be required on day one. A large portion of this online course will be dedicated to CAD, and students will be required to submit completed CAD drawings.


Introduction and Prerequisites

  • Introduction to Additive Manufacturing
  • Geometry and Coordinate Systems
  • Introduction to Materials Science

Computer Aided Design (CAD)

  • Introduction to CAD
  • OnShape Tutorials

Summer Course

During the four-week on-campus course, students will learn the details of AM primarily through hands-on activities and experimentation. Daily lectures will provide information and direction, but students will need to apply sound reasoning to solve a variety of engineering challenges. Guest lecturers from MIT and Boston-area companies will help provide context and specific applications of these technologies. Visits to MIT labs using AM and other emerging technologies will be included.

Week 1: Building a 3D Printer

  • 3D printer hardware build
  • CAD review
  • Slicing and g-code
  • Printer tuning and optimization

Week 2: Engineering Design Principles

  • Designing with constraints
  • Limitations of material properties
  • Working with a customer
  • AM in the real world

Week 3: Printer Modification

  • Novel materials
  • Advanced CAD and slicing
  • Customizing g-code

Week 4: 3D Printing Challenge

The final week will be dedicated to implementing and optimizing a major printer modification. Using the modified printers, students will develop a solution to an engineering challenge.