University of Dayton Research Institute
(UDRI) is expanding their 3-D print-manufacturing program thanks to $3 million in funding awarded from the Ohio Third Frontier earlier this month.
The program, which runs for three years, gives UDRI the capability to start a new line of research, says Program Manager Brian Rice. “Specifically, the technology we’re focused on is something called Fused Deposition Modeling [FDM],” an additive manufacturing technology primarily used for prototyping. But Rice and his team’s interest in the technology is to produce actual functional parts for aerospace and automobile companies, like GE and Honda.
Explains Rice, “Let’s say, for example, one of our partners is GE Aircraft Engines. Just on a commercial engine, there might be 400 to 500 unique parts that each part would require tooling if they were going to produce it by injection molding or something. And so, the key is they can produce these unique parts with no tooling.” He goes on to explain a very near future where companies can key up three-dimensional parts on a computer and simply print it.
Although the technology exists in some facets, it will take time to approve large-scale FDM manufacturing for planes and cars. “When you’re putting something on an airplane or car where human safety is a concern, it takes longer to develop the technology, because it has to go through all sorts of material testing.” But the wait, Rice says, will be worth it.
“You take your car into the shop and they don’t have the part,” he explains, describing another scenario. “Well, in the future you might be able to just call the part up from a computer file and print it right there,” saving the consumer weeks in shipping and delivery. “We’re not there today, but that’s where the future will be.”
Source: Brian Rice
Writer: Joe Baur