MICA grads use training to start 3D printing company

Harrison Tyler studied sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art, but the entrepreneur was on campus Saturday to teach others how to build their own 3D printers.

While the art school might seem an unlikely career path to a startup, Tyler, who graduated in 2014, said he first used a 3D printer at MICA. And that got him interested in how the printers work and how they can be advanced to serve various fields.

His interest in 3D printing led him to start a company, called Jimmi, with fellow MICA grad Evan Roche. They teach others how to build their own machines and to create different, customized 3D printers that use biomaterials.

Tyler’s workshop on Saturday was part of the college’s “Entrepreneurs-In-Residence” program, which aims to help students turn their artistic training into business opportunities. Tyler has been an Entrepreneur in Residence at MICA this school year. 

“There’s a recognition that our students, artists and designers are so much more important to our economy because of the way they are able to think and solve problems,” said MICA spokeswoman Debra Rubino. “We want to help them create smart business.”

Rubino said the school will also host a pitch competition this month called Up/Start MICA, which will award up to $100,000 for up to five winning teams to help them grow businesses or launch startups. Last fall, the school also hired business owner and entrepreneur Monyka Berrocosa as its “entrepreneurship evangelist” to help guide students with new ventures.

Megan Miller, director of the Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Career Development at MICA, said the school has been pushing entrepreneurial services after reviewing results from a nationwide survey of art school alumni conducted by Indiana University. Many respondents said they had received little business training, yet art students tend to be self-employed and need those skills. About 50 percent of MICA students will be self-employed at some point, Miller said.

“They like to create change and thoughtprovoking work. For them, to be their own boss is a really appealing idea,” Miller said.

Tyler and his students spent the day at the glass Gateway Building on Mount Royal Avenue building their machines, which they plan to test Sunday.

Several students and faculty members hunched over tables covered in metal and plastic pieces, and pictorial directions that looked like they came from a piece of IKEA furniture.

The 3D printing kits, which cost $1,050 at a MICA-subsidized rate, were created by Tyler and Roche and included step-by-step instructions.

In addition to offering building classes, Tyler said the company has also worked with early-stage researchers at such institutions as the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to produce customized printers.

Inside a clear, larger 3D printer than what the students were building, Tyler said a syringe would be used for liquid materials such as silicon. He said he was working with scientists at the University of Toronto on the project, which is just one of many bioprinting projects around the country. Ultimately, he said, science would eventually advance to where the machines would be able to use materials to create organs and have other uses in medicine.

The students in Saturday’s class were making more basic FDM, or fused deposition modeling, printers, which use plastic filament. The machines melt the filament, similar to a glue gun, and deposit the melted plastic into a desired shape.

Tyler had some items he has made in the past, including a small gray Venus de Milo statue about the size of a pen. The bigger and thicker items take longer, he said.

Erinn Hagerty, who is working for her Master of Fine Arts degree and is an adjunct instructor in the animation department, said the workshop was relatively easy to follow, and a “helpful atmosphere” made the building easier.

“I feel like I have ownership of my machine,” she said.

Hagerty, whose work includes kinetic sculpture and animation, said the printers would be helpful to create set designs for animation and other uses more quickly, but with the fine detail as if she were to create the objects by hand. She has already used 3D printers to build items for past art installations, including a rotating cross.

“There’s a lot of potential,” she said.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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