Printing the Future

Printing the Future
Printing the Future

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is becoming common enough that consumers can buy desktop printers.

Carnegie Mellon University is ensuring all of its students — from its engineers to its artists — are able to experience this new and growing technology.

Undergraduate engineering students learn how to take an idea and turn it into a product in just a semester with the new Additive Manufacturing for Engineers course.

This course integrates the business, design and engineering aspects of product development while introducing students to the process of additive manufacturing.

“The additive manufacturing process is perfect for design projects,” said Jack Beuth, professor of mechanical engineering and co-creator of the course. “It takes into account the market and adds the element of invention. Students conceptualize, 3D design, 3D print and market their own unique product in a very short amount of time. This stimulates entrepreneurial, creative problem solving.”

Students work directly with maker-scale polymer 3D printing machines (CubePro) while also exploring the technology of metal additive manufacturing — a critical emerging manufacturing technology in engineering.

The 3D metal additive manufacturing process is an extremely sophisticated one. It requires specialized machines that fuse metal powders in either a laser powder bed or an electron beam powder bed.

Carnegie Mellon is one of only three academic institutions that has both types of these 3D metal printing capabilities.

“This is the only course of its kind to expose undergraduate students to the two 3D metal printing processes of greatest interest to industry,” said Beuth. “Students will gain an understanding of the full range of additive manufacturing processes — from maker machines to metals machines — and the market and uses for them.”

Working in teams, students come up with an initial idea and perform market research. They then design products and upload printable files to Shapeways, a 3D printing marketplace and service. When (and if) customers place orders for the teams’ products, Shapeways prints and ships them.

“I found this class very valuable because it connected our project to the real world,” said Wing Tung Wong. “As engineers, we need to be able to understand which design is the best fit for the user.”

CMU’s Integrative Design, Arts and Technology (IDeATe) network has launched IDeATe@Hunt, a collaborative making facility at Hunt Library. The studio classrooms are open to all students, and the fabrication labs are available to those taking IDeATe courses (which are open to students from any major).

In addition, IDeATe offers courses instructing students how to use a 3D printer as it relates to their field — physical computing students may 3D print enclosures for circuitry components, whereas architecture students may 3D print scale models. Instruction is offered by Ali Momeni, assistant professor of art, and Garth Zeglin, a researcher at the Robotics Institute.

“IDeATe@Hunt creates a work environment where students are exposed to a variety of common enthusiasts from a wide array of varying backgrounds. It is our hope that this community begins to learn from each other’s work,” says P. Zach Ali, the technical director of IDeATe.

Currently, IDeATe also offers courses in Physical Computing, Physical Computing Studio, Human-Machine Virtuosity, Digital Tooling and Rapid Prototyping Technologies.