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MU ASME chapter crossing Canadian border for IAM3D finals

Jennings

Jonathan Jennings, seen here surrounded by several 3D printed objects, will be joined by teammate Shuangjiu Fu and adviser Yuyi Lin as the MU chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers participates in the finals of the Innovative Additive Manufacturing 3D Challenge (IAM3D) in Montreal in November.

The MU chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has been selected as one of 24 finalists for ASME’s inaugural Innovative Additive Manufacturing 3D (IAM3D) Challenge.

Two representatives, mechanical engineering students Shuangjiu Fu and Jonathan Jennings, will travel to Montreal for the IAM3D competition finals at the International Mechanical Engineering Conference and Exposition (IMECE), which will run from Nov. 14 through Nov. 20, 2014.

The competition itself will be held on Nov. 15, when the team will showcase their competition entry: a desktop-size 3D printer that uses powdery materials and binder created as a senior capstone design project. There they will compete with other student teams from around the world, giving a 10-minute verbal presentation and Q & A on their design. Out of the 24 teams, five will be chosen as winners.

Yuyi Lin, associate professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department and an ASME fellow, will be traveling to IMECE with the team as their adviser. Lin is the instructor for the senior capstone design class as well as the multi-disciplinary senior engineering capstone design class.

The objective of the IAM3D competition is to create designs or re-envision existing designs in order to save energy using 3D printing technology. A unique aspect of the MU team’s entry is that while they are bringing an entire printer, most of the other competitor’s designs are for 3D printed items.

“So everybody’s gonna have a piece of plastic, and we’re gonna have a 3D printer,” said Jennings. “It’s kind of a curveball.” He helped the team with functional aspects of the printer and also is the one who suggested that they should enter the competition.

The capstone design team that built the printer was composed of mechanical, computer and electronic undergraduate engineering students, who all worked on individual aspects of the printer and then combined them together to create the final product.

“We are a very good team,” said Fu, adding that at first she worried the project was going to be a very difficult task. “I thought, ‘we are just undergraduate students and we are going to design a 3D printer?’”

But design it, they did.

The 3D printer that was entered into the competition is actually the second prototype, built in Spring 2014, which improved upon the first prototype that was created in Fall 2013. “The second one works much better,” said Lin. “Our own ideas were put into it.”

The team’s use of original ideas has resulted in a printer that uses nontraditional manufacturing methods in comparison to most other printers on the market. 3D printers work by using a computer-aided design (CAD) to create a 3-dimensional model from it by using an Inkjet printer head to lay down — or “print” — material in successive layers until the entire object is created. The most common method of 3D printing is called Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), where molten plastic is used to build parts.

The MU team’s printer can use inkjet powder printing, a less common method that creates layers by printing a layer of powder and then printing a binder solution over it. This gives the printer freedom to move far beyond the realm of plastic.

“Our printer can do whatever material we’d like to try; we can use whatever binder we’d like to try,” said Lin. That includes ceramic, metal, and even biocompatible materials. Only one commercial 3D printer manufacturer uses this method, but it only allows its own patented materials to be used. According to Fu, the team’s printer modifies and improves upon that design, and can use many different materials.

The printer also makes metal parts in a way that is different than current commercial metal 3D printers, which use lasers to fuse metal powder together. The team’s method does not require lasers or high temperatures.

“This [3D printer] opens a big door for many faculty members to do research,” said Lin. For example, if someone is working on making body parts, they could use the printer to build a biocompatible porous “scaffolding” that could be implanted into an animal or human body, allowing tissues to grow into it.

3D printing is very good for this type of small quantity pre-production or prototype production, saving large amounts in energy and costs, which is why it is such an excellent research vehicle.

“It’s awesome for prototyping because I don’t have to pay someone a thousand bucks to make a metal part, and it’s lighter,” said Jennings. The team saved costs even more by using the college’s 3D printer to build some of the parts for their own printer.

The printer will get the chance to show what it’s made of when it travels with the team to Montreal in November. “If we pull it off, I really think we have a chance of winning,” said Jennings.

For Fu, the nerves are kicking in, but she is grateful for this opportunity given by ASME, as well as for the support Lin gave her and the rest of the team throughout the design process. “Dr. Lin is very patient, and he gives a lot of suggestions and encouragement,” said Fu.