New NSF Grant for Mobile Additive Manufacturing Platform

A small community college campus located in Somerset, Kentucky is driving state-of-the-art advances in the field of Additive Manufacturing (AM). With the leadership of Additive Manufacturing Professor Eric Wooldridge, the campus offers several AM courses and a certificate, conducts outreach activities to drive awareness, and runs other funded projects including a new metal Additive Manufacturing capability (see resource links at end of post).

ATE PI - Somerset Community College
Mobile Additive Manufacturing Platform Team (Left to Right): Elaine Kohrman, Ismail Fidan, and Eric Wooldridge

The National Science Foundation has just announced a new grant award to Somerset Community College (SCC), led by Professor Wooldridge, to establish a Mobile Additive Manufacturing Platform to enhance the innovation and entrepreneurship infrastructure in both Tennessee and Kentucky.

In this recent announcement, Dr. Ismail Fidan, Professor of the Department of Manufacturing and Engineering Technology and College of Engineering-Faculty Fellow in Innovation and Techno-Entrepreneurship at Tennessee Technological University, has joined forces with Eric Wooldridge (Principal Investigator) and Elaine Kohrman (Co-Principal Investigator) to create a mobile additive manufacturing platform to aid the future workforces of Tennessee and Kentucky.

Both Wooldridge and Kohrman are professors at Somerset Community College (SCC is part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College system). 

In an interview with Professor Wooldridge, he explained that the “Mobile AMP grant is our solution for getting tech momentum around Additive Manufacturing (AM). The more practitioners, users [we have] the more momentum and the more resulting innovations will occur. We’ll be training teachers, companies (through workforce development programs), and, of course, students.”

They want to take students and the entrepreneur-minded to go beyond “printing keychains and trinkets.” This AM training is “getting them used to high-end equipment and advanced design software — additive projects that make something real, solves a real problem, creates a real product,” Wooldridge said.

A key aspect of the Mobile AMP grant is the use of a vehicle with a trailer enabling the movement of  specialized equipment to off-campus sites. This trailer will allow educators to get the equipment safely to schools and locations, optimizing time  and minimizing risk.. The goal “is to add several printers for scaling production and show the capacity for short run production where a person can design something and have 8-10 printers producing products overnight,” Professor Wooldridge explained.

You can keep up with what this new grant project is doing through a new YouTube channel the Somerset team has created: The Additive Guru. They focus on short videos on equipment reviews and best practices, with lab techs and students contributing.

If Professor Wooldridge’s name is familiar, you may remember AM News recently profiled his work developing a 3D Printing Technician Certificate at SCC. Plus, in February of this year, he was part of the Golden Eagle Additively Innovative Lecture Series, an online webinar event that reaches people around the world. Professor Wooldridge’s lecture focused on his 3D printing technician certificate work at SCC. His lab and accomplishments have been recognized and appreciated by the Governor of Kentucky.

Dr. Fidan, of course, is a regular mention here on AM News for his projects serving the global additive manufacturing community. The most recent includes a new type of 3D printer: Tennessee Tech Launches New Mobile Multitasking 3D Printer (A new printer called the TechBot).

Stay tuned here on AM News in the coming school year for SCC and TTU innovations leading the Additive Manufacturing educational community.

Additional Resources

The Lane Report: Somerset Community College adds metal additive manufacturing technology.

From the NSF Award page: “The overarching goal of the project is to enhance workforce development opportunities in additive manufacturing for high school students, community college students, incumbent workers, and manufacturers in underserved regions of Kentucky and Tennessee. Two courses will be developed to include advancements in powder-based printer and metal printer applications. These courses will be integrated into the existing curriculum for the 3D Printing Technician-Level 1 certificate at the institutions. These courses will cover topics such as improved product topology, metal sintering production, advanced composite materials, and generative design concepts and techniques. Customized curriculum on these topics will also be developed and offered in workshops for high school students and incumbent workers.

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