DUBOIS – Using state-of-the-art manufacturing technology, The North Central PA LaunchBox Powered by Penn State DuBois continues to expand the services offered to businesses and individuals throughout the region.
Demonstrating the ability to reach almost any industry, one of the latest innovations from the LaunchBox is keeping a Clarion County woman in stitches.
Kristen Mahle has had a passion for sewing since the second grade, when she received her first sewing machine from her mother.
She shares that passion with others by teaching sewing classes, often offering the classes, free of charge, to underprivileged youth and other individuals in her area.
Recently the resident of Marble, Pa., in Clarion County, was faced with a unique problem: She was missing a part from her distinctive sewing machine.
The machine and part, while originally made by a well-known manufacturer, are no longer available for purchase. This left Mahle without the use of an otherwise well operating machine.
She was also faced with a price tag in the thousands to replace the advanced, distinctively featured example.
“The part is called a spool cap. I had loaned out the machine to a student, and when it came back the part was gone,” Mahle explained.
“In most machines, this wouldn’t matter. But the way this machine works, it is essential. It’s an automatic loading threader.
“It is unusual, and it’s done for convenience and ease, but I didn’t even know where to start looking for this part. It’s not like anything else I have.”
Fortunately, Mahle is a student majoring in business administration at Penn State DuBois. North Central PA LaunchBox Director Brad Lashinsky recently made a presentation in one of Mahle’s classes, introducing students to the services made available to students and the public through the LaunchBox and the on-campus Idea Lab. Mahle quickly realized she may have found a solution to her problem.
The LaunchBox, Lashinsky explained, innovates solutions for area businesses and individuals in the Idea Lab. Featuring 10 3-D printers, 3-D scanning hardware and software, and a vinyl printer/cutter, the lab is available to anyone in search of help developing a prototype or finding a solution to an issue like the one Mahle had experienced with her sewing machine.
After meeting with Mahle, Lashinsky and 3-D Scanning and Printing Instructor John Williams got to work on creating a replacement part for the sewing machine.
By tracking down a similar piece from another machine, they were able to scan a basic 3-D profile of the part, then shrink it down and make adjustments, using in-house software, so that it perfectly matched the piece Mahle required.
A variety of prototypes made from different materials were then produced in the lab’s 3-D printers until the ideal piece was chosen.
Lashinsky said, “We had to experiment with what material would work best. We needed something that would end up making an extremely smooth surface so the thread would not become snagged on the edges.
“In the end, three technologies went into making the part: The scanners, the software used to adjust the piece, and the printers that actually produced it.”
“I’m super happy that this worked really well,” Mahle said. “It was really convenient having the LaunchBox right here. And they were so accommodating and eager to help.”
Lashinsky said the ability to fix this machine is an example of the ever-expanding number of ways the LaunchBox can serve the community as the Idea Lab continues to grow.
He said, “The possibilities are endless with what we can do, and we’re really just getting started. As we try new resins, we’ll be able to create working gears, automotive parts, and more.
“And what we want is really to produce these one-off projects, and to help with prototypes so that we are helping people and existing businesses, not competing with them.”
Lashinsky is available to assist businesses and individuals in finding ways to meet their unique needs. He can be reached at 814-375-4704 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For those interested in learning more about the technology involved in 3-D scanning and printing, a Rapid Prototyping class at the Penn State DuBois Idea Lab is held, free of charge.
Funded by a grant from the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission, classes are held from 4:30 until 7:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays.
New, four-class sessions run each month from January through March 2022. To reserve a seat, contact Penn State DuBois Continuing and Community Education at 814-375-4715 or email@example.com Visit https://dubois.psu.edu/rapid-prototyping for more information.