Machines that can print heart valves and mammalian skeletons. Others can produce engine pistons, prototypes of athletic shoes and tools of various sizes all using plastic composite and metal parts.
Welcome to the future.
On Thursday, Long Beach State unveiled the Gerald M. Kline Innovation Space, a high-tech area on the ground floor of the University Library where students and faculty can create design pieces that were unimaginable a few years ago.
For example, associate professor Ted Stankowich in the Biology Department, showed off a 3D model of a skull from a humpback whale. The black plastic model was about two feet in length; a real skull would measure 40 to 50 feet.
The I-Space, funded by a donation from the Kline Family Foundation and Student Excellence Fees, is an interdisciplinary design facility that features advanced machines and technology. It is designed to enhance students’ learning by improving their projects and increase their efficiency with the latest tools and technology.
“You are part of the beginning of the fourth industrial revolution,” Christiane Beyer, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, who was instrumental in putting together the I-Space along with University Dean Roman Kochan.
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Kochan said he sat on the proposal for a 3D printing space for two years before seeking approval and funding. He said there wasn’t an appropriate space or money at that time.
He eventually approached Kline, a longtime friend and philanthropist who heads the Kline Family Foundation, with the idea of a 3D printing space.
“I was telling Gerry about it and he was skeptical, but he decided to take a chance on me,” Kochan said. “It is a huge achievement. Everything came together at the right time.”
Kline said admitted to knowing little about 3D technology, but was willing to help because “Roman is always willing to move along with the times and forcing the changes that are needed. Roman was the main engine in doing this.”
President Jane Close Conoley was among the crowd who watched the machines in action. She tested a pressure washer, a tool that requires the user to place his or her arms and hands in rubber-like gloves to work inside a glass casing.
“This is yet another example of our library continually reinventing itself to better serve our students and our faculty,” Conoley said.
Kochan said there was only one problem with the Innovation Space: who gets to use it first.
“We have people clamoring already,” he said.