This post is about a very new field in Mechanical Engineering. As the title suggests it is about 3D printing and the universities that you need to take a look at while applying for Grad school with respect to 3D printing.

Post the industrial Revolution there has been an influx of various manufacturing process, which followed both the conventional and unconventional machining process. Sheet metal fabrication, Metal Castings dominated much of the last century, one of the drawbacks the world faced with metals, where the high cost and weight associated with the parts. In the last 3 decades as we started optimizing our products in-order to cater to a large population and we developed Plastic Injection moulding. All these processes while propelling us towards the advent of innovative products, the one disadvantage it had was attributed to the limited amount of materials that could be used due to the subtractive machining processes involved in making these products. i.e. Most end products were developed by removing material from a bigger part in order to make the final part, that’s why the term subtractive manufacturing techniques.

In the last 5 years with the advent of additive manufacturing things have started to change. In simple terms it a process in which you build a part in a layered manner by adding fused material in layers. Now the material can be Plastic, Concrete, Metal, Composite materials, Alloys and even Human tissues. Someday you might be able to print a human organ as well. This flexibility has created a lot of traction within various product manufacturing companies. And thus it is a strong area in academia to focus research on, there has been lot happening nowadays in the field of 3D printing. I have put together a list of universities and their research in this particular field for you to take a look at. If you are interested in pursuing a career in 3D printing, then you might find this very useful.

  • Columbia University – FOOD PRINTING – In the future if your rices or grains are 3D printed then Proff. Hod Lipson might be one of the reasons for it.
    • Proff. Hod Lipson is a professor of engineering at Columbia University and a co-author of the recent book “Fabricated: The New World of 3D printing”. His work on self-aware and self-replicating robots, food printing, and bio-printing has received widespread media coverage including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Time, CNN, and the National Public Radio. Hod directs the Creative Machines Lab, which pioneers new ways to make machines that create, and machines that are creative.
  • Pennsylvania State UniversityADDITIVE MANUFACTURING, BIO PRINTING, METAL PRINTING
    • Material Research Institute, researches on advancing additive manufacturing techniques on metals and structures. Center for Innovative Material Processing – CIMP is in the same sphere of research as well.
    • OZBOLAT LAB – Leading Bio-printing Research at the Penn State University focuses on establishing cutting-edge bioprinting science and technology for various areas in regenerative medicine. The research group has been engaged in several projects sponsored by governmental agencies, private corporations, local agencies and industry. The current research interests include:
      1. Bioprinting of pancreatic organ for type-I diabetes
      2. Vascular and vascularized tissue printing and angiogenesis
      3. In-situ composite tissue printing
      4. Scaffold-free tissue printing
      5. Bioprinting of organ-a-chip models
      6. Development of new bioinks for advanced tissue printing
      7. Development of new bioprinter technologies
      8. Understanding physics  of bioprinting  processes
      9. Bioprinting brain-like tissues for brain-tumor metastasis
  • Virginia Tech
  • University of Wisconsin – Madison
  • Harvard University – Bio Printing, is at its best at Harvard. If you are looking into Bioprinting, here is the lab you need to work in – Wyss Institute – 3D Bioprinting of Living Tissues. And in Lewis Lab – The principal activities involve 3D printing of soft functional materials for use in printed electronics, optical materials, light-weight structures, and microvascular architectures for cell culture and tissue engineering.  
  • Iowa State University, if you are interested in geology and want to print porous geological material, then Iowa is the place to go
    • GeoFabLab – produce a workflow for photocopying rocks. Printing Permeable Porosity is the current focus.
      • Touchable Topography: GeoFabLab seeks to streamline the production of 3D printouts of digital elevation data for learning and research. Some examples:
      • Flexible Fossils:Inspired by a flexible trilobite model on Thingiverse, GeoFabLab would like to create models of organisms (fossil and otherwise) that move to improve understanding of modern and ancient life.
  • University of Connecticut – focusses on Advanced Materials and Additive Manufacturing. Here are the Professors you need to reach out to,
  •  Prof. Rainer Hebert, whose research focusses
    • Additive manufacturing for aerospace and medical applications
    • Faster and cheaper 3D printed metal parts
    • Improved and tailored material properties
    • Alloys and materials specific to additive manufacturing
  • Prof. Xu Chen, whose research focusses
    • Selective laser sintering (additive manufacturing)
    •  Wafer scanners (semiconductor manufacturing system)
    •  Active suspensions
    •  Robotics and human-machine interactions
    •  Nanometer-precision systems
  • Georgia Institute of Technology
    • Direct Digital Manufacturing Laboratory – research program covers a broad variety of interdisciplinary topics under the overall framework of Additive Manufacturing advanced through a synergistic combination of computational design, manufacturing and materials processing technologies, and materials science.
    •  Prof. Kenneth Gall – current research interest are 3D printed metals and polymers, soft synthetic biomaterials, and biopolymers with structured surfaced porous networks.

So, here we are. The top 8 universities in which you can pursue a specialization in 3D printing with a good amount of success. 3D printing as of all new fields is an inter-disciplinary field. You need to understand the material science, manufacturing process, the working of the nozzles and some organic chemistry as well.

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