Additive Manufacturing

MAY 2018

ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING is the magazine devoted to industrial applications of 3D printing and digital layering technology. We cover the promise and the challenges of this technology for making functional tooling and end-use production parts.

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MAY 2018 Additive Manufacturing FEATURE / Education & Training 36 a gauntlet of committee approvals and abstruse formalities before being accepted into a college curriculum. This was a critical consideration when Overfelt and Prorok were conceptualizing the additive program at Auburn Univer- sity. If its new additive program were to begin as a major or a minor, it would face a potentially bruising journey that could take two years to ratify. Meanwhile, additive technologies and applications would advance, and companies like GE would be hard-pressed to wait for Auburn while piles of paperwork wound their way through a labyrinthine approval process. The second factor, which is admittedly anecdotal, is that college minors aren't as popular among today's students as they once were. While many universities still require students to select a minor, many do not. Regardless, most minors require 12 to 15 hours over and above the normal course requirements for one's major. It can be costly and time consuming, and those are relevant distinctions for any conversation about additive manufacturing education. Because once we agree that additive is too new and is evolving too rapidly to support a college major within the field, we might assume that the next logical home for a university program would be a minor. Not so, says Overfelt. At least not at Auburn. "There are some minors that do OK," he says. "But by and large minors aren't highly subscribed to because students don't want to take the extra hours—particularly if they don't feel like if you can make the case to them that the minor is going to lead to some enhancement of their résumé and mar- ketability for a job. But if you've got scholarship money and you can basically pay them to take your minor, they'll sign up tomorrow. We've got minors that are kind of only viable because there's scholarship money being put in. There are certain industries that have to do that to get people interested in their industry and to generate a pool. In our case, I don't think that's the right thing to do." With these considerations in mind, Auburn landed on a solution: a certification program. Five classes, 15 semester hours, no university committees to consult. With the dean's ap- proval, Auburn's Certificate in Additive Manufacturing opened for registration last year. As opposed to a minor, the certificate program does not require a mechanical engineering major who wants to pursue the AM certificate to pay for course hours be- yond the requirements for his or her degree. This is a bit tricky to explain, but it's an important distinction. Auburn's additive certificate program requires students to take three courses: the Additive Manufacturing of Met- als course, taught by Overfelt, and two AM design courses. Students can then choose two courses among six electives that are currently offered. These courses cover CAD, virtual prototyping, fatigue, heat exchange design and heat transfer, and kinematics and dynamics of robots. But since these same courses are also available as mechanical engineering electives— and since the mechanical engineering major requires 12 elective hours—students can graduate with their bachelor's degree and a Certificate in Additive Manufacturing without spending a penny extra for the certificate. A Waiting List Each Semester Auburn recently received part two of its NIST grant that the university is using to invest in a $1 million X-ray CT scanner from Pinnacle X-Ray Solutions. This machine, along with Auburn's current array of metal 3D printers (as well as a custom EBM machine that professor Prorok and his students are build- ing from scratch using cathode ray tubes from old television sets—a subject worthy of a separate article in the future) are soon to be housed in the Gavin Engineering Research Labo- ratory. Located in a circa-1929 facility formerly dedicated to textiles, the entire west wing of the building's first floor will be dedicated to additive manufacturing when it opens this fall. In the meantime, Overfelt's Additive Manufacturing of Metals class is already filled to capacity. Advertising and promoting the program has been easy—so easy that it hasn't required much actual advertising or promotion. "Additive is hot," Overfelt says. "You just get the word out to students through the grapevine, and all of the sudden they all seem to know about it. We've had a waiting list every semester to get in that class. When we set it up, the only room we could find was one that had a hard limit of 65 students, so we set up the enrollment to be 55 undergraduates and 10 graduate students. Otherwise it would be larger." Back in Overfelt's class, there's a glaring distinction between this fluorescent-lit, windowless room and the warm, sunny Ala- bama weather outside. Spring break is around the corner, which may explain why at least a dozen students are absent today. The end of today's class is devoted to reviewing the upcoming exam, which Overfelt asks his students if they'd prefer to take before or after spring break. (Before, unanimously.) The exam will be a mix of multiple choice, true or false, and an essay question or two. The test will cover the molecular differences between coarse pearlite and fine pearlite, and students should be able to show their understanding of the principles and concepts of temperature versus time precipitation mapping. "Do you guys remember that? I take it to be no since you're staring at me like I'm a Martian," he says to a few laughs. About six students stay after class to ask the professor questions. These are the students who answered questions during class, the curious and engaged students—the ones who should have no problem finding work just a few miles down the road.

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