Sep 6, 2017 | By Benedict

Researchers at the University of New Brunswick in Canada are developing artificial intelligence (AI) technologies for 3D printing that would allow printing systems to automatically generate and 3D print optimal designs within specified parameters.

The University of New Brunswick in Canada

The University of New Brunswick is preparing for the next industrial revolution by investing in 3D printing and manufacturing innovation. And as part of its goal to explore “factories of the future” and Industry 4.0 concepts, the Canadian university recently established a CA$1.25 million ($1M) innovation program at the McCain Foundation.

One beneficiary of that program is Ed Cyr, a mechanical engineer studying the applications of artificial intelligence in additive manufacturing. During his CA$50,000 ($40,000) UNB fellowship, Cyr will look to improve manufacturing techniques by attempting to understand the behavior of 3D printed materials.

“We’re not really sure how these materials behave, and how to best use these new methods,” Cyr said. “If we can understand why [these behaviors] are happening…then we can design the part to use the best part of that behavior.”

One particular area of Cyr’s research is a 3D printable aluminum alloy that increases in strength when put under certain types of stress. The engineer says this material would be useful for “something like armor…or maybe even building the wall of a ship.”

But perhaps the most exciting topic the engineer plans to explore is AI in additive manufacturing. Cyr says he wants to develop a system that can generate and 3D print designs completely automatically, scanning through potential iterations before choosing the best design on its own.

“For a human to sit down and come up with the optimal design, we would have to come up with thousands and thousands, and that would be incredibly time consuming,” Cyr explained. “The beauty of a computer is it has the ability to go through those thousands and thousands of designs. It can actually model a total design space and tell us which one is the best, and it can even come up with things we might not even think of.”

Mechanical engineer Ed Cyr

Cyr’s supervisor is equally excited about these prospects. Mohsen Mohammadi, of UNB’s Marine Additive Manufacturing Centre of Excellence, wants to bring AI 3D printing into real-world manufacturing settings as soon as possible.

“I think for sure we will see the factory of the future soon... and it’s going to revolutionize the whole manufacturing medium,” Mohammadi said. “All these new technologies, they sound actually far away, but they are coming to us”

Mohammadi particularly emphasized the importance of bringing such technologies to New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada, in order to ensure that manufacturing in the region doesn’t fall behind. He added that the so-called “age of augmentation,” brought about by AI, could create local jobs.

“Our workforce will have a new tool in their tool box,” Mohammadi said. “We are not only actually going to affect the number of [workers], we think these will actually train the workforce for the new generation of technologies.”

Earlier this summer, the University of New Brunswick opened a CA$5 million research facility for metal 3D printing in the marine and defense industries. The majority of funding for the center came from defense company Lockheed Martin.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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