MIDDLETOWN, Pa. (WHTM) – TE Connectivity’s 3D printing prototyping center in Middletown has been around since the 1980s.
“TE actually beta-tested the technology in 1987, and we implemented it immediately. We have been doing it for a little over 30 years,” said Robert Zubrickie, manager of the company’s 3D printing prototyping center. “We are not doing the average type of 3D printing. It is pretty advanced. Connectors, first article connectors.”
Many companies reach out to TE Connectivity when looking to make a new part. TE’s engineers can design it, print it, and produce a prototype.
Every year, students from the area get to tour the 3D prototyping center.
“I never really imagined that something like this large scale could be around here. It is neat to walk through and see these machines working in action,” said Marcus Toevs, a senior at Cumberland-Perry Area Vocational Technical School.
The students get a behind the scenes look from a long-time pro.
“When I started with the company, there was no such thing as a computer in the country, well enough 3D printing,” said Zubrickie. “There was no curriculum and there was no way of getting education on this technology.”
In an effort to change that, TE Connectivity partnered with HACC’s Engineering and Trade Center in downtown Harrisburg to help educate the next generation.
“Students are involved in a project that exposes them to processes that engineers run into every day,” said Kim Ketelsleger, a HACC engineering teacher. “They are creating parts and models using CAD. They’re printing them using 3D technologies.”
Students in the class also get to connect with professionals at TE Connectivity.
“We are working to help them determine some dimensional stability for new materials in the 3D printing world. We are actually preparing a presentation for TE Connectivity,” said Shane Leasure, a HACC engineering student.
The job possibilities for the students are endless.
“Drafters, designers, technician, manufacturing technician, 3D print technician,” said Ketelsleger. “Our graduates of the HACC Engineering Program are in demand. They get excellent jobs upon graduation and our employed by local industries.”
Benn Dopp is one of those success stories. Dopp is a HACC graduate now working at TE Connectivity.
“My title is technician level 3 at the 3D printing and processing center,” said Dopp. “If you imagine it, we could make it here, and that really inspired me personally.”
Some of what Ben is creating at TE Connectivity could be in your next car.
“We are making parts that may go on to a 2020 vehicle or a 2021 vehicle. We get to see them before they are even open to the masses. The best part is we are usually the first person to ever hold this part in our hands,” said Dopp.
Zubrickie says as 3D printing evolves, it will become more of an everyday part of our lives.
“It’s going to be really changing the way we look at manufacturing and the way we look at end products. We will have 3D printers at our hardware stores,” said Zubrickie.