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Sunderland-based engineering education specialist N.A. College has sourced seven MakerBot Replicators to expand the possibilities of what its engineering students could produce and learn.

N.A. College evolved five months ago from the original NAC Education division of the 14-year-old NAC Group. It is a leading source of automotive agency workers throughout the UK and also has a nine-week training course leading to an apprenticeship with Calsonic Kansei. N.A. College also works closely with Nissan and its suppliers, offering a range of courses tailored specifically around the needs of the companies while maximising opportunities for its students.

School Engagement Tutor for N.A. College, George Cox, has been working with the College for two years. He teaches the five-day Industrial Cadets F1 programme based around the F1 in Schools competition. The programme includes teaching students about CAD, 3D printing and presentational skills. He also mentors teams through the full F1 in Schools competition and teaches the pre-apprentice sixth form programme the college now provides, which is all engineering based.

The college recently purchased seven MakerBot Replicator 3D Printers from the Newcastle branch of the specialist supplier Concept Group, a Xerox company. George explained why they chose to invest in that specific model: “We bought seven MakerBot Replicators because they’re well-priced, medium sized 3D printers that can produce bigger and more detailed models than our current printers could manage, which allows us to expand the possibilities of what our students can produce and learn. It is a great machine, and Concept Group provided a brilliant service. They quickly resolved some issues we had with one of the machines, and negotiated an attractive price on the units. I have no reservations in recommending both to anyone planning to invest in desktop 3D printers.”

Concept Group was formed in 1984 to offer new services in a new way. Newcastle Sales Manager Stewart Hunter said: “The concept behind Concept is to provide customers with carefully tailored solutions across our broad portfolio, delivering better, more economical document and print management, while also furnishing customers with tailored advice about the best machines for the job. The MakerBot Replicator was the perfect solution for N.A. College’s needs. It is an excellent 3D printer at an affordable price.

“Simple to operate, it is a machine that offers a host of features, including a larger build plate, and it can print finer detail than its competitors without pricing itself out of our customers’ reach. We worked closely with N.A. College to make sure the printer delivered what they needed at the price they could afford. It was great to help enhance their students’ educational experience in such a positive way.”

Simplicity is a key element of the MakerBot Replicator 3D print experience. Installation is easy and quick, and its user learning curve is quickly levelled out thanks to its intuitive operating systems. Even its top mounted 3.5 inch, full colour LCD display is easy to read and got enthusiastic reports from industry reviewers who compared it with MakerBot’s competitors’ smaller displays in difficult to reach locations. Operators can choose settings that range from fast draft to finer resolution, subject to need, and by using precise, fused deposition modelling, the versatile printer combines substantial build volume with ease-of-use.

When taking a 3D CAD model to 3D print, the sleek, good-looking machine’s 100-micron layer resolution can create professional-quality, high-resolution prototypes, and complex models for every type of creative project, whether in classrooms, businesses, design studios, engineering workshops, or architects’ offices. It has three connectivity options —USB, Wi-Fi, and Ethernet— which deliver a seamless workflow.

Users can access their object library and see previews of their 3D model files, and an on-board camera automatically takes reference pictures of final prints then saves them to a cloud storage library. Cloud and app-enabled, the printer connects to MakerBot's software options, including MakerBot Desktop, MakerBot Mobile, and Thingiverse, to provide an effortless yet sophisticated 3D printing experience.

Even the MakerBot Replicator’s smart extruder is simple to replace. When the filament runs out the machine detects the lack, automatically pauses the print process, and sends notifications to MakerBot Desktop and MakerBot Mobile. Once a new filament has been fitted the printer continues the paused project with the absolute minimum of downtime. It is recommended that operators always use MakerBot PLA Filament, which has been manufactured in the USA to be the best, most consistent filament for the printer. Tested in-house by MakerBot to ensure highest quality standards, the filament is uniformly round to ensure that it will consistently flow through the extruder onto the build plate in smooth, even layers.

N.A. College’s George Cox has the final word: “When we first looked at investing in new 3D printers we knew what we wanted and what we could afford. The two seemed unlikely to match up. Concept Group and MakerBot have done everything we asked and more, and it’s our students who will benefit. The perfect outcome.”