Kaitlyn Rule ’19  |   Published May 26, 2016

Theatre in 3-D

Crowdfunding project nets valuable new equipment for department
  • Students from the theatre department compare a rendering of plans to the 3-D, printed result.
New 3-D equipment has taken a lot of guesswork out of designing sets for Monmouth College theatre productions.

Through crowdfunding, the College’s theatre department purchased a 3-D printer, which allows students to build better models of sets before starting work on the final product.

“It has allowed us to be more exact while creating 3-D models to scale,” said Elizabeth Johnson ’16, a theatre major from Geneseo, Ill., who built a full-scale model of The Rover set for the recent spring production on the printer. “With the models, it allows us to ensure that what we intend to build will work for our purposes and is what we want.”

Crowdfunding is an online resource for connecting alumni and friends with students and faculty who seek support for unique academic and cocurricular opportunities. To raise money for the 3-D equipment, Monmouth students created videos that explained how the machines would benefit the department. After the printers and scanner were delivered, students sent thank-you cards and samples of their work to the donors.

3-D printers expand students’ creativity in numerous ways, said theatre professor Doug Rankin.

“The 3-D equipment has transformed our new design lab into a creative workshop, combining the accuracy of technology with traditional media, and allowing students to experiment in three dimensions,” he said. “Rather than building and sculpting out of traditional materials and having to start over after finding a mistake, the students can build the designs digitally, print them out at various scales, and tweak the dimensions until they are perfect.”

The department uses “a very high-end 3-D scanner” to input real-world objects, as well as two types of printers that are capable of printing many types of plastics and polymers. Rankin said the original goal was to produce accurate stairways, railings and furniture in various scales for the scale scenic models that designers construct before production begins.

“However, we have found many other uses, such as producing small properties or costume pieces to be used on stage,” he said.

This summer, Rankin will oversee a summer research project with Morgan Holle ’17, math major from Oskaloosa, Iowa. She and other students will create a 3-D model of Old Main, the former Monmouth College academic building, which burned in 1907.

“The Old Main project will teach students how to research historic architecture and build museum-quality displays,” Rankin said.

Holle said she is excited about her summer research project.   “The printers have been, and will continue to be, a huge asset to the students and faculty of the theatre department,” Holle said. “I have been very lucky to be one of the students given the opportunity to create things with the printer this year, and I look forward to continuing that.”
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