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New 3-D printing facility at ASU will help prepare students for the workforce

Companies partner with ASU to fund a high-quality research lab for students

A student works with a laser-cutting machine at the manufacturing hub at ASU's Polytechnic campus on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017.

A student works with a laser-cutting machine at the manufacturing hub at ASU's Polytechnic campus on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017.

ASU's new 3-D printing equipment will provide research opportunities for students and prepare them for work in the modern manufacturing industry.

“This is the future for manufacturing,” said Ann McKenna, faculty director of the Polytechnic campus. “It is a new technology that enables the manufacturing design and build of parts and devices with a new set of design principles.”

The Polytechnic campus recently established the Manufacturing Research and Innovation Hub, using 3-D printing to improve university research. The Innovation Hub is part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering located at the Polytechnic campus which contains the largest additive manufacturing research facility in the region.

Additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, refers to the many processes used to combine existing materials and synthesize a three-dimensional object using computer control to create an object with desirable qualities.

In order to make the facility a reality, the Fulton Schools partnered with Honeywell AerospaceConcept Laser Inc.Phoenix Analysis & Design Technologies Inc. and Stratasys Ltd. The partnerships in the industry enable the school to conduct more research and become a hub for innovative ideas, McKenna said. 

ASU launches innovative 3-D Printer at the new Manufacturing Research and Innovation Hub from The State Press on Vimeo. Video by Mingson Lau.

"Part of innovation is taking those ideas into fruition and carrying them through," McKenna said. "So the Hub is a place where, if you’re thinking about innovative product design, innovative materials, this is a place where you can realize that innovation and you can give it shape and you can give it form.”

Students working in the lab are now able to use the printer to streamline research processes.

“Having that equipment, that cutting-edge, state-of-the-art equipment, here on campus enables our students to be prepared for the workforce and gives them a competitive advantage," McKenna said.

Nathan Dwight, a mechanical engineering sophomore who works in the facility, said "3-D printing, just as a whole, is probably one of the most versatile tools that we have here at start up labs."

These new capabilities are valuable professional experiences for students to learn as well.

"Using (the 3-D printer), I can create stuff like gears, I can create complex assemblies very easily. I can simply just model it in SolidWorks and quickly print it out."

Malcolm Green, associate director of corporate engagement at the Fulton Schools, said that the $2 million worth of 3-D printing equipment used in the facility includes new analysis technology that ensures that students stay at the forefront of the changes that are brewing in the business of additive manufacturing.

“It’s disruptive, in the same way the internet was when it was created,” Green said.

3-D printing is presenting new opportunities for the Innovation Hub, as well as research being conducted in general.

“The products that are now possible with additive manufacturing are so diverse that they can be used in an increasing number of areas that demand specific rigidity, malleability, etc.," Green said. "Anything from prosthetics in the medical field, to advanced aerospace technology is possible with the invention of 3-D printing."

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