Bigger companies typically come to the institute with their own design files, but Figgatt said engineers are happy to help small businesses develop their products from scratch.
"You see some of the worst napkin sketches you'd believe," he said.
The process begins with an idea.
"You start out with really a brainstorming session to find out what you want to achieve," production engineer Christopher Figgatt said.
In producing the ornament, Figgatt and company decided they wanted to reflect the state's 150th birthday, and researched images on the Internet for ideas. They eventually decided on a design representing the fireworks display that marked West Virginia's sesquicentennial in June.
Engineers then created a computer model of the ornament and all its details using a computer-aided design, or CAD, program. Next, they sent those designs to a "slicing" software, which broke the model down into individual layers.
This is where the 3-D printer comes in. It creates each of those layers, one on top of another, until the ornament is complete.
Once "printed," technicians remove the ornaments from the printer and remove excess powder by blasting the model with air before spraying it with a special coating to make the powders harden.
The printing process takes about 10 to 15 minutes per ornament, but the machine can be set to produce as many as 20 ornaments per run, which increases the printing time exponentially.
The institute created a limited edition of 100 ornaments for Charleston Newspapers. They are now on sale for $15 each at www.cnpapers.com/ornament or the front desk at the Charleston Newspapers building, 1001 Virginia St. E. in Charleston.
Proceeds will be split evenly between the Daily Mail's Neediest Cases and Gazette Charities.
For more information about the Robert C. Byrd Institute and its 3-D printing services, call 1-800-469-7224.