Try 1 month for 99¢

Gail Ray has plenty of energy and creativity, especially for a 64-year-old college student.

Some people might be satisfied to have experienced a 30-year career as an architect, primarily designing major hospitals. But not her.

“As an architect, I was always a problem solver,” she said. “This is a new career for me. It is so exciting. I love it. There is so much I see as a new direction I really like. I am 64 years of age, but I have a high level of energy.”

What is she doing now?

She is working hard through an honors program at the John T. Blong Technology Center in Davenport that combines her knowledge of architecture and manufacturing technology with her love of and talent for art.

That combination is taking her into the new territory of 3D printing.

The process begins with use of a special 3D camera and to take an all-round photo of the model. Ray then transfers the image to a computer and digitally manipulates it until it is ready for the final printing.

Eventually, she will make a silicon mold and use plaster to create a bust of her model, fellow student Ketzalli Dondiego of Clinton. He also is studying in the mechanical design department at Blong, through Scott Community College and Eastern Iowa Community Colleges.

The project is expected to be completed in December.

Brad McConnell, an instructor of mechanical design/solid modeling at the Blong Center, said mechanical design itself is not new. However, what Ray is doing is unique.

“We are adding 3D printing as a new area we are exploring,” he said. “In industrial additive manufacturing, it is taking away that makes the tool or product.”

For example, he said when designing a specific tool, some types of metal can be shaved, cut and drilled to make it work. But adding to the tool is different.

“With this, we are building a part by addition,” he said. “We start with nothing but a solid model, then we add to create something by adding.”

While commercial and industrial use has been around for years, McConnell said 3D printing is somewhat new.

On the hobbyist level, he said many people use 3D printing to make things. But this program will take it further.

For Ray's project, he said, she used a hand-held scanner to scan the body and then created 3D software.

Ray said she designed the class herself. She has done sculptures and oil paintings for years. Now, she wants to continue in art but also incorporating  technology and creativity to take it to new levels.

“We actually scanned the full body,” she said.

While she will make only an upper-body bust for this project, she said they will have all the information to do a full body cast in the future.

“Hollywood is using this tool,” she said, referring to the TV and film industry. “There are so many applications in this field. It is so exciting.

“Because of the equipment, it feels your mind to do things you have never done before.”

Ray said 3D printing is being used in many fields. For instance, she said medical personnel can use it to scan the human body for making prosthetics.

McConnell said the Blong Center is working with Deere & Co. and other local entities to develop curriculum and to create a service bureau to work with companies in different capacities.

For instance, he said some local companies are “excited” to hire students to work internships in this field. As more students learn the process, the college will begin to provide more workers to this field.

He likes the future of the program and what Ray is doing.

“In what she is doing, it is doing this on the creating side, to create just the bust of this model,” he said. “We want to integrate this into the art arena, to use new technology to create art with 3D printing to make sculptures, paintings and murals.”