Mass Production And Decision Making With Low Cost Additive Manufacturing

With over 7,000 face shield assemblies 3D printed, 1,000 ear savers (that make it possible to get a mask strap off the back of your ears), and 272,000 grams of filament used, Somerset Community College’s (SCC) Additive Manufacturing Center (AMC) stepped up in a major way to 3D print personal protective equipment (PPE) for Kentucky’s first responders in this COVID-pandemic time of need.

Professor Eric Wooldridge recently spoke at the Tennessee Tech University Fall 2020 Golden Eagle Additively Innovative Lecture Series on September 27, 2020 to encourage future 3D printing business owners and other academic institutions how they might leverage 3D printers in the future. For the SCC AMC, the majority of their printers cost less than $415 which helped them build a 24/7 production line of dozens of 3D printers, using two or less operators per day.

Wooldridge and SCC have received funding from the USDA Rural Development program as well as the National Science Foundation EPSCoR and ATE programs. The funding has been instrumental in building out a successful 3D printing training program as well as a robust production facility, as demonstrated by answering this call to serve first responders with PPE. The SCC Additive Manufacturing (AM) goal is to give Kentucky manufacturing an edge by helping to raise up a fully skilled AM-skilled workforce. A task that the SCC team seems well-prepared for after this PPE experience. 

In fact, that’s what the “Mass Production And Decision Making With Low Cost Additive Manufacturing For Institutions And Small Businesses” webinar offered. It gave an inside look at how a small team could scale up a 3D printer production line as a way to make new products. In the talk, Professor Wooldridge offered a variety of insights and technical tips as he walked attendees, including industry representatives, through decisions the AMC made, including mistakes they quickly corrected, in printing thousands of shields and parts. 

Low Cost Additive Manufacturing (LCAM)

First, what is a low cost 3D printer? SCC’s goal is to take a sub-$600 printer and show business owners how to make money with it. Once they demonstrate that, he sees owners take it from there. Low cost equipment can create a high quality production line. If they have 3D printers and 3D skills, it leads to innovation.

Before you jump in and start printing. Wooldridge believes you need to look at three main areas:

  • Design
  • Cycling
  • Maintenance

Part of these three areas involve asking four key questions (any company or organization would want to ask these):

  1. How big is your team? (Small businesses are often under-staffed, so this is important)
  2. What is your design flavor? (If you like to only create the models, that won’t work if you don’t like to print, too). You have control of the layout on the printer, the printer speed, are there non-essential features that are essential? 
      • Within design — you have to think about your production. 
        • Are you a “Fast Ninja”?  
        • Are you a “Slow Stacked” approach? 
        • Or in the middle is the “Flat Spread” type?
  1. Production cycling, what do you most care about?
  2. Do you want to do proactive or reactive maintenance? Which one will minimize your downtime? 

Wooldridge digs in and keeps the talk moving quickly with rapid fire answers to his questions. In this short 30-minute lecture, you will get lots of very specific technical advice in addition to broad ranging issues you should think about. 

An example: In the section on Cycling, he points out that one of the biggest enemies is runout; running out of filament. “Runout sensors that warn you that you are ‘about to run out’ of material are cool, but not the answer. The idea that your printer would warn you that you were running out of filament was not helpful in the middle of 20 or 30 printers going at once after 15 hours of run time. Quantity is the solution — getting large orders of filament with 3kg or 5kg rolls — what we call the Texas Size rolls (that’s where we ordered them from),” Wooldridge said.

The SCC team naturally found it was super rewarding to be able to help their community. Wooldridge closes the talk with how it was wonderful to be in a position to respond “with Additive to support our regions, we sent across state lines as well. It was great to be in the middle and answer that call.” 

Ultimately, he concludes: “This pandemic has been a real turning point for Additive. It has made people realize what is possible. And you can see it in the industry response. You see how many companies are starting to now buy into higher-level equipment, buying up printers. The number of print farms that are being setup is drastically increasing. People have realized that this technology has the potential to step in and fill gaps wherever they are. Or allow someone to startup with a brand new business with hardly any infrastructure to begin with, in terms of manufacturing.” 


Learn more about SCC and Professor Wooldridge’s efforts to increase workforce training and small business awareness of 3D printing as a way to grow a company and profits. 

You can also read posts on the NSF Research News page: College using 3D printers to make face shields for regional hospital or on the Somerset Community College news page: SCC 3D Printers Used for Face Shields to Help Ease Shortage Due to Virus. The project was funded under the NSF ATE program here: Mobile Additive Manufacturing Platform for 21st Century STEM Workforce Enhancement (#1902437).

Join The 2020 Virtual National ‘Manufacturing Day’ Celebration at Tennessee Tech

Mobile 3D Printer TTU Ismail Fidan

Manufacturing Day is an event and special opportunity for manufacturers to showcase their workers and company, as well as to connect with future skilled workers. Like so many other events during COVID-19, the game has changed. In-person events are now virtual and hundreds have rallied their teams to shift to digital, virtual events (take a look at the map below). 

Tomorrow, the first Friday of October, MFG DAY organizers and participants will walk through virtual doors and start new conversations. The goal for all manufacturers is to foster interest in manufacturing careers. Tennessee Tech University (TTU) is leading the way with a MFG DAY Zoom launch at 10am Central time (45 minutes).

Here’s a snapshot of what they will be doing in this fast-paced session where you will hear from each expert:

  • Ismail Fidan, Professor, Manufacturing and Engineering Technology (Welcome)
  • Additive Manufacturing Applied to “Wicked” Interdisciplinary Healthcare Problems
    • Robby Sanders, Associate Professor, Chemical Engineering
    • Melissa Geist, Professor, School of Nursing
  • Wire + Arc Additive Manufacturing for High Performance Materials
    • Duckbong Kim, Assistant Professor, Manufacturing and Engineering Technology
  • Cobots in Manufacturing
    • Stephen Canfield, Professor, Mechanical Engineering
  • Additive Manufacturing of Multi-Material Parts
    • Seymur Hasanov, Ph.D. Candidate, Mechanical Engineering
  • Composite Parts Manufacturing using Fused Filament Fabrication Process
    • Ankit Gupta, Ph.D. Candidate, Mechanical Engineering
  • Large-Scale Additive Manufacturing of Cement-Based Structures
    • J. J. Biernacki, Professor, Chemical Engineering
  • The Strange Rheology of Cement-Based Pastes
    • Babajide Onanuga, Ph.D. Student, Chemical Engineering
  • Using Hydrogels in Cement-Based Printing Pastes
    • Hajar Taheri-Afarani, Ph.D. Candidate, Chemical Engineering
  • 2-D Stationary Computational Printing of Cement-Based Materials
    • Abdul Salam Mohammad, Ph.D. Student, Chemical Engineering

Get ready to answer some fun manufacturing quiz bowl questions during the event! Winners will receive surprise SME gift items. Original MFG Day PDF flyer is here.  You can also see the full TTU TechBot Mobile 3D Printer video from where the above is captured.

Thanks to the SME team for their support and helpful post that shows how you can find a virtual Manufacturing Day event near you. Of course, you can attend virtually from anywhere, but sometimes you want one closer to home. Check out their post and here is that screenshot that shows there are no shortage of events happening tomorrow on October 2nd.

Note: On the SME site is the “Attend an Event” button and you can see the full, interactive map full of MFG Day 2020 events, mostly virtual, all around the USA.

Tennessee Tech Announces Fall 2020 Additive Manufacturing Lecture Series

Fall 2020 Golden Eagle Additively Innovative Lecture Series
Fall 2020 Golden Eagle Additively Innovative Lecture Series

The College of Engineering at Tennessee Tech is organizing its tenth Golden Eagle Additively Innovative Lecture Series for Fall 2020.

Thanks to Dr. Ismail Fidan and his team — they have again arranged an amazing group of expert speakers from around the world.

The web-based presentations are shared via the free Zoom platform. On the dates listed, simply visit this Zoom URL ( here it is in plain text should the link not work correctly: tntech.zoom.us/j/432789883 ) at 11am Central Standard Time and you can listen in to the 30-minute lecture/discussion. Mark your calendars for one or all of these excellent presentations.


Thursday, Sept. 17

Mass Production and Decision Making with Low Cost Additive Manufacturing for Institutions and Small Businesses

Presented by Eric N. Wooldridge, PE, RA, Professor, Somerset Community College, Kentucky


TTU Lecture Series _Olaf Diegel

Thursday, Oct. 8

Design for AM: The Key to the Industrialization of AM

Presented by Olaf Diegel, Professor, University of Auckland, New Zealand


TTU Lecture Series _Steiner KilliThursday, Oct. 29

New Product Development for AM: Methods and Tools

Presented by Steinar Killi, Professor, Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Norway


TTU Lecture Series _Ian GibsonThursday, Nov. 19

Machine Learning in AM

Presented by Ian Gibson, Professor, University of Twente, Netherlands


Dr. Fidan has been using the Zoom platform for years and leads out in online learning methods. You can read more about his complete shift, thanks to COVID-19, to innovative, distance learning approaches:

Online Learning In The Age Of COVID-19 And Beyond

You can also access the full archive of past additive manufacturing webinars here:

Golden Eagle Additively Innovative Lecture Series Spring 2020

The Golden Eagle Additively Innovative Virtual Lecture Series is partially funded by the NSF Award 1601587, “AM-WATCH: Additive Manufacturing-Workforce Advancement Training Coalition and Hub.”

We make regular updates on the Materials Education Facebook page (sister organization to TEAMM).

New Micro- Nanotechnology Education Center (MNT-EC) Serves Technician Education

Nanotechnology Technician Education
Photo by L N on Unsplash

As urgent pandemic needs came to the public’s attention in the first half of 2020, the speed of additive manufacturing technologies and how quickly teams emerged to handle the shortages. Teams around the nation leaped into the void to demonstrate a truly just-in-time solution. The ongoing crisis and PPE (3D printed and other components) further show a greater need for technicians in 3D printing and other technical fields, such as nanotechnology. 

A newly funded National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education program – the Micro Nano Technology Education Center (MNT-EC). According to the award news: “The MNT-EC will directly increase the numbers of community college faculty participating in micro- and nanotechnology technician education, thus supporting an increased number of students who receive technical education degrees and certificates in micro- and nanotechnology fields. As a result, this project will support preparation of a skilled technical workforce in a field that has an enormous impact on the nation’s economy, security, and health.”

This project will be led by Pasadena City College in collaboration with Edmonds College, Portland Community College, and Northwest Vista College. In addition, the MNT-EC will connect existing micro and nano NSF ATE Resource Centers (NACK, SCME, NEATEC, and MatEdU). 

A few examples to explain the current uses and opportunities in the Micro- and Nanotechnology industries:

        • Components in electronic devices such as computers, cell phones, wearable activity monitors, and medical sensors. 
        • Materials science aspects of micro and nano are making tennis balls that last longer, cloth that repels water, and bandages that prevent bacterial growth. 

The Technician Education in Additive Manufacturing & Materials (TEAMM) project, in connection with MatEdU, operates AM News to explore news for technicians. It also addresses a critical gap in supporting technician education initiatives, such as the MNT-EC, among others. It also looks to keep institutions and students up to date with ASTM International (formerly known as American Society for Testing and Materials) for skills standards that keep pace with advances in research and development. This new award to Pasadena City College is a powerful example of NSF’s commitment to making sure technicians are ready for whatever situation or crisis arises in the United States.

A highly skilled technical workforce is needed to keep pace with the demands of and the changes in micro- and nanotechnology industries. Here are a few Microtechnology and Nanotechnology technician jobs that students are researching: 

        • Nanotechnology Engineering Technicians    
        • Computer and Information Research Scientists
        • Electronics Technicians
        • Materials Engineers
        • Biochemical Engineers 
        • Microsystems Engineers 
        • Materials Scientists 

For more details, you can read the full Abstract on the NSF site: The Micro Nano Technology Education Center (MNT-EC) Award details.

Online Learning In The Age Of COVID-19 And Beyond

Image Courtesy of Zoom Video Communications

By now, it is fairly clear that the delivery of education has changed. With no in-person, on-campus classes and nearly everything online, we have moved into a new era, whether we like it or not. COVID-19 may soon be stopped by way of a vaccine, but its impact is undeniable. 

Thanks to Dr. Ismail Fidan, Professor of the Department of Manufacturing and Engineering Technology at Tennessee Tech University, AM News started exploring what online learning looks like, on the ground, for the Spring semester and future ones. Since most of you were thrown into the virtual learning, distance learning, remote learning world (pick your term), we uncovered many great resources ideas we hope will help you plan and build your courses and teaching methods.

Dr. Fidan faces some of the same challenges that many professors face — how to teach an in-person lab when you cannot meet in person. He shared that he was able to build his own virtual lab, and help his colleagues with theirs, to develop materials for ZOOM and TTU’s use of Desire2Learn’s BrightSpace learning management system platform. 

In the Plant Layout and Materials Handling course, students do their design work by accessing the virtual laboratory of Tennessee Tech, quickly developed by the Information Technology Services team. Using the commercial VMware Horizon application, students join the laboratory and complete their assignments remotely using AutoCAD 2020.

In the CNC Machining Practices course, students use the Autodesk Fusion 360 software tool (again via remote access). This is a cutting-edge simulation tool for CNC machining operations. Anything they program also functions the same as in real cutting operations.

Although the MatEdU free resources were not built for remote learning specifically, you can find a wide range of materials science curricula that may guide your next steps to planning online courses. Visit the MatEdU Modules page or the Instructional Resources page. Here are five additional sites packed with even more ideas.  

Regardless of which technology platform your school uses, here are several other resources that may provide useful tips and techniques: