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3D Printing for Materials Design in Introductory Engineering

Dr Doug Dunham | University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

3D Printing for Materials Design in Introductory Engineering

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Giving students the opportunity to engage in the materials design process in an Introductory Engineering course primarily for first year students is a challenge. In our introductory course, we have implemented a lab module where the students design a material for a given part geometry to withstand a specific tensile strength for the lowest cost. The material designed is a nylon-fiber composite. The part is printed on a Mark Forge II composite 3D printer and then tested to verify it meets the design constraints. The composite printer prints in nylon with a second extruder printing the reinforcing material in glass fiber, Kevlar or carbon fiber. The students have the ability to vary the fill density, the number of fiber layers, the number of concentric rings, and the angles of the isometric layers in order to meet the required tensile strength.
The students are limited to printing five or six sample parts to determine the material specifications needed to meet their design constraints. The students use information regarding the amount of nylon and fiber used to calculate the cost of the part. Students present their results in a technical document that describes the process they used, details of their final design and the cost per part to fabricate the part. In nearly all cases, the students meet the tensile strength constraint. Typically, students make it significantly stronger than the design constraint, so the cost is more than necessary.