We’ve all heard the old saw “the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” I can’t say I put much stock in that one, but I’ve heard that the “quickest way to get a kid’s interest is with an ice cream cone” -- I believe that one based on my own experience an impossibly long time ago.
Therefore it didn’t surprise me at all to hear that the fine institution of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was experimenting with producing ice cream with a 3D printer in hope of drawing kids' interest to the technology. It apparently started one semester when Professor John Hart’s class in additive manufacturing printed 600 ice cream spoons. Additive manufacturing, by the way, is considered by many including President Obama to be the new revolution in manufacturing. Instead of forming things in molds or by punching, pressing and whittling them down on tool and die machines, additive manufacturing builds things up nature's way, one layer at a time.
Anyway, having pretty much cornered the market in ice cream spoons, Professor Hart and his students decided to try making ice cream with the same 3D printer. Other components included a modified soft-serve ice cream maker, a freezer and a compressor for liquid nitrogen. In the accompanying video you can watch the printer as it forms an… uh… interesting looking (yummy wasn’t the right adjective) ice cream star. Bursts of liquid nitrogen accompany each bit of ice cream, freezing it instantly into immobility.
Of course producing a yummy ice cream cone wasn’t the point of this exercise. Professor Hart and his students were simply showing how a bit of creative thinking and engineering can produce an interesting classroom exercise that is certain to get kids in the lower grades interested in learning something about the technology behind additive manufacturing. After all, this is where the jobs are going to be in the coming years.
We here at RobotsLAB are impressed with the creativity displayed in this video. While our own additive-manufacturing instructional aid the STEM BOT 3D CLASS is far less complicated -- and far less expensive -- than MIT’s, they probably don't taste as good.