The U.S. Army and the U.S. Office of Naval Research have turned to the University of Central Florida to help push the limits of additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3-D printing with metallic alloys.
Additive manufacturing looks to use different metallic alloys to print a variety of finished components used in everything from children’s toys to aircraft and naval ships, which is why the armed services are interested in seeing the industry advance. The UCF process, once perfected, promises to be more efficient and mobile.
Yongho Sohn, a Pegasus Professor in the College of Engineering and Computer Science and associate director of the Materials Characterization Facility, is leading work on overcoming the challenges associated with using metallic alloys. With the Army and Navy’s nearly $5 million in grants over the next five years, he expects to be able to accelerate breakthroughs in this area, something that’s been the focus of his 18-year career at UCF.
“Additive manufacturing technology offers unprecedented capability for agility, customization, delivery and, most importantly, design possibilities unexplored due to conventional manufacturing limitations,” Sohn said. “This is a disruptive technology that can change how we manufacture things and, equally important, how we educate and train the next generation of our technology workforce.”
Much like personal printers, toners (the alloy powders) in additive manufacturing determine the range and quality of the materials that can be printed and the resolution of the finished products.
Sohn is working with a team that is exploring the development of new alloys specifically for some of the most technically challenging applications required by Army and Navy.
UCF is positioned to make leaps in this field because of Sohn’s expertise and the resources in his laboratory. It is one of a few university labs in the nation to have the tools to investigate the complete manufacturing process for metallic alloys from powders to finished components.
“Literally we can design a new alloy composition to try by lunch time, make the new alloy into powder form and feed it into the 3-D printer before going home, and have a component printed out when we return to work the next morning so we can run a variety of characterization/testing,” he said.
He is collaborating with Ranganathan Kumar from UCF’s mechanical and aerospace engineering program, Hae-Bum Yun from civil and environmental engineering, and Kevin Coffey and Tenfie Jiang, both from materials science and engineering. External collaborators include scientists from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and Rajiv Mishra from the University of North Texas.
Students and post docs are also benefiting from this cutting-edge research. Several have been trained to use the equipment and certified to conduct research with it. They include: two research scientists, Le Zhou and Ed Dein in the Advanced Materials Processing and Analysis Center, one doctoral student, Holden Hyer from materials and science and engineering and one undergraduate, Sharon Park, a junior in mechanical and aerospace engineering.