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Higher education|

A US university uses PaperCut to make 3D printing available to over 50,000 students

Cutting to the chase

Problem

An outmoded email-based job request system wasn’t meeting needs.


Solution

PaperCut MF solved the workflow management problem and a lot more besides.


Outcome

One-stop ordering, faster processing, and seamless integration.

Terrapin Works is a sub-unit of Engineering Information Technology in the A. James Clark School of Engineering – part of The University of Maryland. Founded in 2014, Terrapin Works provides rapid prototyping, advanced manufacturing, and digital design resources as a service to the campus and surrounding community. These resources range from consumer, research, and industrial grade 3D printers, to high end subtractive production systems capable of creating complex parts in a variety of materials. In total, Terrapin Works runs more than 200 machines in 17 locations across the campus, covering 28,000 square feet of lab space.

Located just outside Washington D.C., the university is one of the United States’ preeminent public research universities. It’s home to more than 40,000 students as well as 14,000 faculty and staff.

Nick Bentley is a Business Systems Developer for the University of Maryland. Not long ago, he was a student at the university and his interest in IT led him to become involved with Terrapin Works. He was actively involved in selecting PaperCut MF to be used as the basis of a new job request system for this state-of-the-art enterprise.

“Our student technicians are ecstatic. They love using a system that just makes sense to them and appreciate the familiarity to tools like Trello they already use.”"

- Nick Bentley,

Business Systems Developer, University of Maryland, USA

Problem

With so many potential users wanting 3D printed objects from 200 different machines, it’s no surprise that organizing job requests was the biggest problem for Terrapin Works. “Use of the (help desk ticketing system) as a job request system was hard, to say the least,” Nick explains. “Given that it was developed as an email-based support system, we could only do so much with modifications like automation rules and custom fields. It works well for our help desk, but not so much as a job request system.”

For users, there was no clear-cut process. “Users would typically begin an email conversation, there’d be some back and forth, a quote would be provided somewhere, and the user would only get updated on the status of their job request if the technician remembered to send an email,” Nick remembers.

It was clear that Terrapin required a solution that could make it easier for both sides of the equation:

A one-stop web-based storefront, where customers could log in, initiate a job request, track it, and easily be notified of updates. And a system that made it easy for student technicians to efficiently process ticketing requests and manage workflow in a seamless way.

PaperCut’s 3D workflow solution satisfied both these needs.

Solution

When Nick discovered PaperCut’s Print Room software, he felt he’d found the answer. But he knew he would have to make a compelling argument for it. “One of our primary concerns surrounding choosing PaperCut as a solution revolved around the number of existing systems we already had in place. Fragmentation of business processes generally doesn’t lead to increased throughput, and we needed to assuage this concern prior to moving forward,” Nick reveals.

“To do this, I presented PaperCut as more than just a workflow management tool. The other features – integrated billing, 2D print management, etc. – fit nicely into additional problems we were looking to solve. Implementing PaperCut would allow us to improve our job request system and would also allow us to sunset a couple of other shadow systems we had developed over the years (namely our custom billing system).”

Outcome

Nick says that PaperCut has improved Terrapin’s workflow in all sorts of ways. “Technicians are able to process orders more quickly than they were able to before.

Also, customers are able to request orders in a more seamless manner, resulting in an overall increase in the amount of orders completed.

“Customers can now log in to the platform, quickly glance at all of the equipment available, drill down into a specific piece of equipment to see if it is right for the part they’re looking to produce, and start an order using the ticketing system – all in one place.

“Coming from a UX/UI background, I know the importance of human-centered design - you should be able to look at something and intuitively know how it works. PaperCut MF and its ticketing system and storefront excel at this. The user interface is extremely easy to understand and use.”

PaperCut’s simplicity has led to plans to expand its use in other ways. “We started our PaperCut journey using one piece of equipment in just Terrapin Works. Today, we’re using the ticketing system to power job requests for all of our higher-end equipment and are even looking to expand its use outside of Terrapin Works. The staff that operate our copy center and our copy program on campus are currently piloting on our PaperCut MF install,” Nick reveals.

“Since our implementation of PaperCut, we’ve been surprised to learn just how much more we can integrate. Our Student Financial Services and Cashiering office recently switched to Nelnet as a payment provider; we were very excited to learn that PaperCut actually integrates with the Nelnet payment gateway and are piloting that feature now.