Editor’s Corner: 3D Printers Rally To Help Stem COVID-19: Your Help Is Needed

COVID19, aka Coronavirus, is taking its toll on all of us, in a variety of ways. So as I kick off an Editors Corner post here on AM News, I want to use it to update you on positive news all across the Additive Manufacturing and Materials Science communities. 

People are coming together to 3D print, to sew (yes, handmade cloth DIY masks – more on this below, hang on), and explore and test materials for the certified N95 respirators and surgical masks. Plus, I will share a couple of stories from within our community of two educators working tirelessly to 3D print face shield parts for use by those on the front lines. 

At Tennessee Tech University, Dr. Ismail Fidan and team have turned the university makerspace, STEM Center, and department labs into 24/7 3D print shops for COVID-19 protective face shield parts. The University also has a very well-established Additive Manufacturing Coalition and Hub established with an NSF award. Their network is also supporting the university’s efforts.

So far, they have printed 381 masks (as of March 25) that went to the state directly for final assembly and distribution to healthcare professionals. The TTU Department of Manufacturing and Engineering Technology and College of Engineering are running 30-plus 3D printers across the two labs. (Short video with them loading up a box of parts.). The Tennessee Tech team plans to keep printing since there are still more production requests and needs from the state.

University of Louisville runs one of the top Additive Manufacturing programs and has an amazing 3D printing facility for training and workforce development. I spent time there a few years back visiting Ed Tackett who runs it when I happened to be driving across the country (not 3DRV, another time). You can read more about their COVID-19 efforts here: Students Producing 3D Printed Face Shields For Healthcare Professionals. Ed is helping nationwide with people trying to sort out how to print at the highest possible quality and speed. 

UofL AMIST 3D Printing Face Shield Parts
Graduate assistant and student Kate Schneidau oversees the 3D printing of face shields for local health care professionals in response to the shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Image Courtesy of University of Louisville.

Normally, I do not cross-link (although there’s nothing wrong with doing it) between my work at Forbes and my National Science Foundation grant project work, but we are in uncharted waters and all the resources we can share with one another, well, it may save a life. If you have a project you are working on related to COVID-19, please get in touch and we will consider adding it here. 

If you are looking for a way to get you or your students involved (great remote, work-from-home, learn-from-home potential), I encourage you to look over the different resources in these Forbes posts — there are many hands-on opportunities: 

As I explained in Forbes, “I had, like many of you, planned to attend the RAPID + TCT event in Anaheim this year. SME, the parent organization that creates the RAPID + TCT event, wisely postponed the event. I have attended several of the RAPID + TCT events and it is always amazing to connect with the community; it is more like a large family reunion, frankly…” But now, thanks to what SME has built, those same people are still coming together to solve one of the world’s greatest challenges.

If you ever wondered if 3D printing is all it claims to be, Coronavirus has helped settle that. 3D printers do all of this and more.”

Let’s close with two final examples of people coming together: 

    • MatterHackers, the largest distributor of desktop digital manufacturing equipment and materials in the USA, created an initiative called the COVID-19 Additive Manufacturing Community Response Hub and it will “connect those in the U.S. who need medical aid (Hospitals and Govt. Agencies) and those who can create it using Digital Manufacturing.” It has been live for three days and hundreds have signed up.
    • The N95 respirator mask is a one-time use item. But healthcare professionals are being asked, all around the world, to keep using the same mask repeatedly. Stanford University has helped answer the question pulling in materials scientists: Can Facial Masks be Disinfected for Re-use? Amy Price, DPhil (Oxon) and Larry Chu, MD on behalf of the Stanford AIM Lab and Learnly COVID-19 Evidence Service Stanford Anesthesia Informatics and Media Lab found that it is possible. See their PDF (linked in the title above) if you are involved in any efforts to help healthcare professionals get access to N95 masks. Hint: 70°C hot air in oven, 30min (not a home oven, to be clear!). Read the PDF with loads of technical details.
Stanford N95 Reuse Studies
Stanford N95 Reuse Studies

Although we are living in challenging times, educators and researchers in the USA and internationally are working incredibly long hours to help and save others. Many of the TEAMM network members are working round the clock to provide much-needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) by 3D printing face shields based on an open source design using PETG filament material on a wide range of 3D printers.

Coronavirus may look like it is winning, but based on these stories and dedicated people, there is hope that it will soon be defeated.

Tennessee Tech College of Engineering Team Wins Leighton E. Sissom Innovation and Creativity Award

Tennessee Tech College of Engineering professor, Dr. Ismail Fidan, and his team were awarded the 2020 Leighton E. Sissom Innovation and Creativity Award for their work on the Golden Eagle Additively Innovative Virtual Lecture Series.

Left to right for picture (award night): College of Engineering Dean Joseph Slater, Dr. Terry Guo, Michelle Davis, Dr. Ismail Fidan

AM News has covered these events each time over the past few years and each one provides insights and knowledge from additive manufacturing experts from around the world.

Leading authorities such as Wohlers Associates Inc. (in which Dr. Fidan is one of their associate consultants) state that AM is a breakthrough technology that represents the fourth industrial revolution. It is seen as a transformative advancement because it enables distributed manufacturing and the production of parts on demand while also reducing cost, energy consumption and carbon footprints. Since many do not know about these advances, including students and faculty at other institutions, this semester-long series provides an essential look into what is coming in manufacturing technologies.

The team received a $2500 cash award and an award plaque on Thursday, February 20, 2020 at the College of Engineering Awards Banquet. As the coordinator, Dr. Fidan finds speakers for each event and organizes the flyer and schedule. It should be noted that he has won this award three times (see below), helping to keep innovation in everyone’s mind. Dr. Terry Guo serves as the IT person arranging the online video platform, Zoom, is working properly for all speakers. He also records the speaker presentations so that people can listen later, if desired. Michelle Davis does the introductions and web publishing.

      • 2004: Establishing a Rapid Prototyping Laboratory with NSF funds for Tennessee Tech
      • 2013: Establishing a Remotely Accessible Additive Manufacturing Laboratory for Higher Education Students at Tennessee Tech University, Tennessee Board of Regents School Students and other students in the nation for their classroom needs.
      • 2020: Establishing and Operating the Additively Innovative Virtual Lecture Series for the last 9 semesters. Educating 1,000-plus people on the latest trends and technologies in Additive Manufacturing with talks from prestigious speakers around the world. You can see the latest flyer here or the full archive here.

The Lecture Series is partially funded by NSF Award – 1601587

Introducing The AM News ‘Editor’s Corner’ Column

AM News is adding a new section called the Editor’s Corner. This new section will provide a way for us to share a variety of resources, links, projects, and other stories that we come across in our research for this site. TJ McCue, our editor, will begin sharing some personalized posts this week.

TJ here: In my work on various National Science Foundation (NSF) projects, particularly here on TEAMM and AM News, I am constantly researching and reviewing a wide range of topics that matter for technician education, materials science, and additive manufacturing. I am active in the industries that touch our educational efforts having worked as a consultant or contractor for many of the large brands that you know and love.

I have put pen to paper for a number of publications you know as well, from the Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, and currently Forbes in their Innovation and Consumer Tech section. I spent almost a full year on the road for a large national project known as 3DRV where I traveled the USA researching and reporting on 3D printing and 3D scanning. All that said, I am passionate about this space and care deeply about how we educate our young people to keep them ready for the future of work.

Every year, there are conferences and events that capture our attention and time. Depending on your specialties, you may visit an event focused on Materials Science, STEM Education, or 3D Printing, to name just a few that are of interest to our readers here. 

TEAMM was part of the annual M-STEM event held last year at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado. The event is sponsored by the National Science Foundation as part of an Advanced Technological Education (ATE) with MatEdU, our sister organization at Edmonds Community College. If you have not visited before, MatEdU is a clearinghouse of teaching materials including labs, hands-on demonstrations, modules and papers, which can easily be integrated into a variety of courses, class-room settings, and industry. 

At the M-STEM event, two graduate students presented (and won) an award for their work at Tennessee Tech University building a mobile 3D printer. It can work with a variety of materials from cake frosting (you read that right) to cement to paint. You can check out the YouTube video here. Although they were not present at M-STEM, TEAMM Network Member, Somerset Community College, is doing some amazing 3D printing work as well converting a $450 polymer (FFF) machine into a metal 3D printer.

If you have not visited MatEdU before, it is a clearinghouse of teaching materials including labs, hands-on demonstrations, modules and papers, which can easily be integrated into a variety of courses, class-room settings, and industry. 

An event to mark on your calendars for April 20 – 23, 2020 is probably one of the best-known conferences for 3D (celebrating its 30th Year): RAPID + TCT, the largest 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing event in North America (scroll down on that page to find student and educator discounts).

I’ll be attending this year’s RAPID+TCT event in Anaheim, California and will be reporting back to you on some of the developments for education, as well as advances in Medical Additive Manufacturing (AM), and new AM Startups (this section is not published yet) shaking up the already fast-moving world of 3D printing. Plus, there is a Student Summit

One of the goals of this new section is to give a shout out to various organizations, colleges and universities, companies, and other resources that can help you in your work with students and the public at large. Some weeks, it might be a long list; other weeks I might only have one item to share with you. 

This week I wanted to draw your attention to an affordable, do-it-yourself type microscope known as the Foldscope. According to the website, Foldscope was “invented by Manu Prakash and Jim Cybulski who asked themselves: What is the best microscope you can build for under $1 in parts?

Image Courtesy: Foldscope.com

“Their inspiration for the Foldscope originated from field visits around the world, where they continually encountered bulky, broken microscopes, or a lack of microscopes entirely. As traditional microscopes are often expensive or cumbersome, they realized the universal scale of this problem and the need for a low-cost, revolutionary solution.”

At the end of 2019, one million Foldscopes were found in the wild helping children and adults become citizen scientists.

May your weekend be filled with all the good materials.

NOTE: The Foldscope is made up of common, easy to get and affordable materials, however on their website a deluxe microscope sells for around $30 for one unit. I presume this is partly to fund other parts of the initiative. They sell a classroom kit of $20 that works out to a bit over $1.75 per unit. Still a deal.

An earlier version of this post was published at Medium

SCC Metal 3D Prints Stainless Steel Parts With Modified $600 Desktop Printers

The additive manufacturing program at Somerset Community College (SCC) recently 3D printed numerous 316L stainless steel metal parts on multiple low cost desktop 3D printers. Metal 3D printing is typically an expensive process requiring metal 3D printers starting in the low six figures. SCC has created an impressive initiative to bring the cost down – way down.

SCC’s process is based on a relatively well-known method known as “Bound Metal Additive Manufacturing” (BMAM). It is also predicted by researchers to be one of the fastest growing methods of additive production over the next several years. The SCC AM program faculty and staff started with several low-cost or fused filament fabrication (FFF) (sometimes known as fused deposition modeling – however, FDM is a trademarked term) 3D printers, typically less than $450 each, then modified them for metal filament extrusion and better build plate adhesion for an additional $150 each (total price tag of $600 per printer). 

Once you print a part on one of the SCC machines, there are still multiple steps to completion. The team started with metal-infused filaments provided by Virtual Foundry and BASF. After accounting for shrinkage and other production issues in the design phase, the parts were 3D printed. SCC worked with sintering experts such as DSH Technologies to debind and sinter the 3D printed parts. Imagine that part is “green” and must be cured, similar to what you might do with a piece of pottery in a kiln (oversimplified, but you get the idea). Below, we link to a few additional resources from Virtual Foundry, BASF, and MatterHackers (a provider of filament).

With the material hardened into something closer to its finished metal state, the team had SCC’s Welding department work on the parts. Senior Welding Professor, Karl Watson, used Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW), also known as TIG welding. Several fillet and groove welds were applied to the original six pieces and the welding went very well.

Preliminary testing of the parts has also shown hardness values slightly less than stock 316L (stainless steel), but microscopic inspection after finishing work has not shown any inconsistencies thus far. Watson also noted that the heat dissipation during the welding process of the 3D printed stainless was higher than conventional stock stainless.

From this success, SCC’s goal now is to bring this low cost metal 3D printing technology to students, teachers, and the workforce throughout Kentucky. SCC will be providing training workshops across the state in the assembly and set up of low cost metal 3D printers for select educators in Kentucky high schools and community colleges. This work is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and EPSCoR (or Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) grants. 

Over the next few months SCC will be dialing in the equipment and their training process for the low cost metal procedures, as well as collecting data on product performance. Eric Wooldridge, Director of SCC’s Additive Manufacturing program, notes that “there is a lot for us to learn about practical welding of 3D printed metal parts, especially parts that have been produced on a desktop 3D printer. Factors of shrinkage, potential zones of weakness, and the best welding practices are still to be determined. These are very exciting but uncharted waters to be sure.” 

SCC will be working with partners across Kentucky, including the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky, to integrate skills in low cost BMAM into the workforce. SCC will also be working with Tennessee Technological University (TTU) to scale their work across state lines through the support of the Mobile Additive Manufacturing Platform for 21st Century STEM Workforce Enhancement grant from the NSF Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program. 

SCC currently offers a certificate in Additive Manufacturing/3D printing and offers additional training through the college’s Workforce Solutions program. For more information, please visit SCC’s Additive Manufacturing program, or check out their YouTube channel, The Additive Guru, dedicated to 3D printing.

Additional Resources:

      • Virtual Foundry – makers of the sintering furnace
      • BASF – makers of the metal filament mentioned above
      • MatterHackers – a provider of filament and reseller of 3D printing machines and equipment. This link goes to a YouTube video overviewing the metal filament from BASF.

Materiom Is Serving As Nature’s Recipe Book For STEM Educators

If you are an educator, a maker, a biohacker, or a curious student, who is often trying to come up with recipes for #natural #materials to test out in your classroom, workshop, or lab, this Materiom site is for you. Their Materials Library is filled with “recipes” for materials you might throw away as compost-worthy, but that can be used in a variety of student projects.

Materiom Materials Library Search Tool
Materiom Materials Library Search Tool

Here are a few recipes you will find and the image above gives some ideas as to what you will find on the site. 

  • -Eggshell biocomposite
  • -Sawdust / agar
  • -Chitosan 12% – Stiff behaviour
  • -Sodium Bicarbonate / Cornstarch
  • -Green tea
  • -Kombucha fabric
  • -Agar bioplastic (heated)
  • -Coffee grounds (used)

According to their home page, “Materiom provides open data on how to make materials that nourish local economies and ecologies. We support companies, cities, and communities in creating and selecting materials sourced from locally abundant biomass that are part of a regenerative circular economy.”

Users can customize and finely tune their materials recipes for their long list of over 50 different  materials (or variations of some materials). Search their Materials Database here.

If you are anything like the team at TTU that invented the paste-based 3D printer known as the TechBot, (patent-pending) then you might be able to use one of these novel, DIY pastes found on Materiom. Both these recipes were created by Marita Sauerwein and E.L.Doubrovski. Check out the Mussel shell | alginate MS01 recipe as well as the similar Mussel shell – sucrose composite. The recipes are on a Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 license, but be warned, they are rated 5 out of 5-stars for difficulty.

This post idea originated on the Materials Education Facebook page (via our sister organization MatEdU).