3D printing lab to provide new opportunities for students, faculty

July 09, 2021

Two men in 3D printing lab.

Seth Mueller, a civil engineering major, and Assistant Professor Oliver Giraldo examine a 3D printed object in the 3D Printing Research and Experiences Lab.

Mizzou Engineering is ramping up efforts to train students to use 3D printers and encourage researchers to find new ways to apply the technology.

This coming semester the 3D Printing Research & Experiences Lab (formerly the Rapid Prototyping Education and Application Network) will become more accessible to the College community. All students will have the option of taking an elective course on 3D printing, and students in Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering will now have hands-on experiences in the lab as part of broader manufacturing courses.

Students will also have the opportunity to work with faculty on research in 3D printing applications and hands-on access to the equipment for capstone and class projects. Additional opportunities to learn outside of the classroom are available through the Mizzou 3D Printing Club, which develops product solutions from inception to implementation.

Currently, 3D printing is used in a variety of applications from printing lightweight parts for more energy-efficient automobiles to origami-inspired materials that start out as compact and expand when needed. Industries are starting to 3D print concrete for rigid but lightweight construction projects. GE has 3D printed parts for jet engines, gas turbines and, most recently, wind turbine blades.

Oliver Giraldo-Londoño, assistant professor and O’Neill Faculty Scholar in Civil & Environmental Engineering is heading the research side of the lab. He earned his PhD from Georgia Tech, where he used 3D printing to fabricate complex structures and materials obtained with numerical optimization techniques.

Giraldo-Londoño is now recruiting faculty whose research could benefit from 3D printing technology. Specifically, he is interested in collaborating with faculty from biological and medical disciplines to study applications such as 3D-printed self-healing materials.

“This material can heal itself like skin,” he said. “It can be used in robotics, especially soft robots that are prone to damage. And it can have a tremendous impact on the biomedical sector.”

Giraldo-Londoño is also exploring future projects around four-dimensional printing of materials that can change shape over time with varying temperatures or electromagnetic forces, as well as bringing concrete printing capabilities to Mizzou.

The lab will continue to have a service role, allowing faculty and students to come to the facility with a design to print out. Industries and commercial partners will continue to have access, too, with opportunities to learn about and test out the equipment.