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UAT student creates sword with 3D printer

University of Advancing Technology’s campus features a wealth of hardware and software to give creative ideas life. Special topics classes like ENG 415-King Arthur literature, taught by Professor Micah Chabner, give students freedom to display their gained knowledge in imaginative ways. Student Josh Follis decided to exhibit his fascination with medieval weaponry by using University tech in an innovative way.

Follis combined his love of sword design and the fabrication technology of 3D printers for his King Arthur-themed blade. The four foot long plastic weapon, created and constructed via 13 interlocking parts, is the largest design sourced from the University’s Dimension uPrint Personal 3D Printer.

He came up with the idea in the first week of class, tasked with the creation of a midterm and final project relevant to the subject matter. His list of ideas-one being a card game-conjured the memory of the 3D Printer. The sword designer, with several wood-carved sabers to his credit, decided to try a new medium for his passion.

“I thought, ‘Why don’t I design a knight sword for my final?’ So I got to thinking and I figured the long sword version of it would be about right,” he said.

Follis initially planned to create a miniature sword with the 3D printer with his first concept sketch, but a change of heart led to a loftier plan.

“The idea ran across my head to make it full-scale and I got to thinking, ‘Nothing’s ever been done that big, not on the 3D printer.’ And to date, I haven’t had anybody disagree or prove me wrong that there is anything physically larger to come out of the 3D printer.”

Inspiration included designs from the Knights of the Round Table lore and more modern fare-the sword handle mimicking the Holy Hand Grenade from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The conversion from idea to physical product involved help from student Dennis Porter to recreate the plan in Maya 2012 3D modeling software. Porter drafted the complete model and broke it up into segments to fit in the printer. Lego-like extension bits were added to construct the pieces like a puzzle.

The sword took approximately 120 hours to print and complete. Three print sessions-which constructed four to five pieces at a time-each took 20-26 hours (every print session concluded with an eight hour acid bath that dissolved the supports that held the pieces in place). The sections were then sanded and painted.

UAT freshmen saw the final product at the recent CONNECT orientation as Follis, a CLP leader, used the sword to break the ice. He relished the shocked faces when they learned it was for his English class.

“I really wish I had a camera for half of them because they’re like, double-and triple-takes and, like, ‘What? Your English final?”’ He recalled. “I modeled and printed a sword for my English final!”

Josh Follis is a 2009 graduate of Fredericktown High School, and is currently attending the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, Arizona. He is the son of Nick and Tammy Follis and the grandson of Ronald and Nancy Crowell and the late Arleen Follis.

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