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Christopher B. Williams, PhD Associate Professor


John R. Jones III Faculty Fellow College of Engineering Virginia Tech


SME SPEAKS GUEST EDITORIAL


Digital Manufacturing Challenge Gives Students Glimpse into AM’s Evolution


D


esign something impossible. That was the homework assignment given to my Introduction to Mechanical Design class by Professor Carl Crane when he fi rst un- crated a Stratasys FDM 1600 at the University of Florida in the summer of 1998. This three-word homework assignment is the reason I fi rst fell in love with what was then referred to as “rapid prototyping,” and instilled in me a passion for the technology to which I have since dedicated my career. This assignment is now the fi rst homework I give to the students enrolled in my ad- ditive manufacturing (AM) course at Virginia Tech as it perfectly captures the possibilities afforded by a layer-by-layer fabrication process. It opens students’ eyes to the constraints imposed by traditional manufacturing technologies and, simultaneously, to the design freedom offered by additive manufacturing. It also makes them keenly aware that the bottleneck in product design is no longer imposed by manufacturing technologies; it is instead imposed by their skill with CAD tools (and perhaps even the tools themselves).


The opportunity to selectively place material in only the locations needed—whether for product customization, design optimization or aesthetic purposes—is a key value proposition of AM technologies. However, it is often the most challenging aspect to leverage, simply because it requires a whole new way of thinking about product design. In effect, one must forget pre- vious training in traditional design for manufacturing principles, which are heavily focused on a series of constraints with geom- etries that cannot be fabricated. In the 2014 National Science Foundation (NSF; Arlington, VA) workshop, “Educational Needs & Opportunities in Additive Manufacturing” (co-organized by Tim Simpson, PhD, Penn State, and myself), Design for Addi- tive Manufacturing (DfAM) knowledge—including computational tools and frameworks for process selection, costing and idea generation—was the most frequently requested skills of the next-generation AM workforce by industry participants. Student design competitions, such as SME’s Digital Manufacturing Challenge, are an excellent way to engage the


Process summary. From left to right: a clay mold is made, an STL is created from the scanned mold, a cavity is added for the shaft and a set of grips are printed.


August 2017 | AdvancedManufacturing.org 13


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