Junior pursues mechanical engineering with a 3D printer


Kate Brask

After many rounds of trial and error, junior Jacob Koch created a successful, remote control robot using his Printrbot Simple Metal printer.

Morgan Matson, Staff Writer

Students at BSM use printers every week to print out essays minutes before class starts, but not many of them are familiar with 3D printers. Junior Jacob Koch, is an expert on 3D printing. He uses his own 3D printer to create objects of his own design and follows his dream of becoming a mechanical engineer.

To pursue his goal, Koch bought a Printrbot Simple Metal, the first all-metal 3D Printer. “Professional 3D printers have been around since the 1980s, and they are really, really good. They can be sold at half a million. So, it’s really cool you can buy something that used to cost $500,000 for now $500,” Koch said.

When he made his purchase, he didn’t set out to make a hobby of 3D printing. “I saw an advertisement online that said, ‘Make anything you want from a 3D printer.’ After that, I looked into it a lot more, and realized that it was really cool, and I really wanted to get it,” Koch said.

Koch’s father, who is a software developer, helps him with his projects. “My dad has helped me set up everything, but only helps me with the programming; he has no idea how to design stuff,” Koch said.

Koch’s greatest accomplishment was creating a robot about six inches long, which took roughly twenty hours of work on the 3D printer. The robot can go left, right, and forward just like a remote control car can. “The robot was one of the first things I printed, so I learned a lot from that,” Koch said.

Through trial and error, he learned that the plastic his designs are printed on isn’t always strong enough. “The biggest issue that I have with designs is that the plastic parts aren’t always strong enough to withstand forces in all dimensions. They break or shear between the printed layers, yet are really strong if force is exerted down on a stack of layers,” Koch said.

He has been experimenting with different ways to control his robot, including using his computer keypad as a controller. “I have been working on building robots, mostly remote control robots that you can control with your computer. They are similar to the robots that you build in [ACS] here,” Koch said.

He has a great deal of other designs he is working on, but the robot was the first thing he successfully printed.
Along with the robot, Koch has printed many other experimental designs and is determined to further his knowledge and enhance his love for robotics. “I have tried to make a catapult, but that didn’t work out very well. It warped a lot. Besides the robot, I haven’t had many successes with it yet,” Koch said.

In the future, Koch hopes to design and create robots that can help around the home. “Eventually, I want to make one of those vacuum cleaner robots so I don’t have to do any chores,” Koch said.

Jacob Koch continues to aspire to become a mechanical engineer. “I am looking at schools that are close to home and schools that also have great engineering programs,” Koch said.

Wherever Koch ends up, he is going to continue designing, building, and living his dream that began with a 3D printer.