Pendergrass Library Serves Role in Developing Product for Market
January 27, 2015

Some people just aren’t sports fans and don’t want athletic memorabilia or apparel. However, there may be a niche for desktop icons of campus that would appeal to a wider audience.
Enter the dry erase Rock.

Pendergrass Library was called upon by UT staffer Mitchell Williamson (a graphic designer by trade) to prototype a product he was developing. His idea was to create a desktop dry erase model of “The Rock” that can be mass produced for sale to UT supporters.

The first challenge was to create a digital model of the rock. With no access to a scanner capable of capturing something the size of the rock, Williamson searched for other data acquisition methods capable of creating his rough model. He then refined the model by using various free 3D modeling applications to lower the polygon count and the complexity of the model.

The first iterations of “The Rock” printed on Pendergrass’ 3D printer were learning moments for all involved. Richard Sexton, information technologist at Pendergrass and the operator of the libraries’ 3D printer, found that the bottom of the model was not actually flat. Though it was not immediately evident in the digital previews, it was showing up in the failed attempts to print the rock out of plastic. Sexton was able to determine this problem and communicated the finding to Williamson, who then set out to refine his model. After using different 3D editing applications, his model was ready for another attempt on the printer.

The results were good enough to convince Williamson that his idea was viable

rock1 rock2


Fast forward 6 months and you’ll find that Williamson has made a LOT of hard earned progress. He has contracted local companies to manufacture the rock and the packaging in which it will be sold. He designed the packaging as well as all other promotional material. In addition to creating a website that includes e-commerce, he also reached out to local vendors such as the UT Book & Supply store to gauge interest in selling these collectibles.

One significant hurdle that had to be overcome was getting approval for this product from the Collegiate Licensing Company. “The Rock” is considered intellectual property by The University of Tennessee and is protected under trademark laws. Because it is an exact replica, Williamson also wanted to include the UT logo and have “The Rock” licensed by the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC). The CLC application process moves at its own pace, is complex, and costs money, but Williamson prevailed and was awarded CLC licensing for his product. After all was said and done The Rock and all manufacturing parts were completely produced within 50 miles of the rock itself.

Anyone may now purchase his or her very own Rock at or at the VolShop in the University Center.

Pendergrass Library is proud to have played a small part in bringing this product to market. Pendergrass continues to expose users to this exciting new technology and looks forward to helping others develop their designs.

A note of thanks from Mitchell Williamson:
“I would like to personally thank Richard for all his knowledge and guidance in working on the problems and complexities of a new 3D printer to produce my prototype. This process would have been much more time consuming and costly without working locally and with knowledgeable staff. I would also like to thank the Pendergrass Library for providing such a wonderful resource like the CubeX 3D printer and the access provided to the students and staff to help their ideas come to life.” –Mitchell Williamson