Dec 1, 2017 | By Tess

The University of Memphis (U of M) has announced it will be investing $2 million to open a facility dedicated to metal 3D printing. The additive manufacturing lab, which is expected to launch by April 2018, will be used for research in the aerospace and medical fields.

The new 3D printing lab will surely come as good news to U of M researchers who have been working with 3D modeling and 3D printing for some time. While they currently have to send their models to external services for manufacturing—which can be time consuming and expensive—the researchers will soon have two metal 3D printers at their disposal to further their work.

With the new 3D printing lab, U of M students will continue their 3D printing-related projects currently underway with partners such as FedEX and Medtronic, a medical device company. Specifically, they will be investigating the potentials of the technology to produce specialized aircraft replacement parts (for FedEX) and bespoke medical implants (in cooperation with Medtronic).

Ali Fatemi and Ebrahim Asadi are two of U of M’s mechanical engineering researchers who will be using the additive manufacturing lab to advance their work and innovate in their field. “There are several universities that are heavily investing in this, not just in terms of the research capabilities but also in terms of education,” said Fatemi.

Fatemi, who is the chairman of U of M’s mechanical engineering department, is currently exploring the various ways that 3D printing can impact the aerospace industry. As we’ve seen, most aerospace companies are already adopting 3D printing technologies in their manufacturing processes.

Earlier this year, for instance, Airbus reported it has installed a 3D printed titanium part in an in-series production A350 XWB aircraft for the first time. The technology has also proved useful for producing functional prototypes for new aircraft designs and parts.

(Images: University of Memphis)

Asadi’s research, for its part, is focused on the medical industry, specifically on the development of customized 3D printed metal implants. Additive manufacturing is revolutionizing the medical implant industry by offering the potential to make patient-specific implants, as well as customized surgical guides and more.

"You want to have parts that match the anatomy of a specific person," Asadi explained. "You don’t want to have your implant, and have your surgeon have to work like a carpenter on your implant while your body is wide open."

Still within the medical sphere, U of M researchers are also currently working on developing a 3D printable metal material which could dissolve or biodegrade in the human body. If developed, a dissolvable metal material would mean that patients who are implanted with a metal plate or screw to treat a broken bone would not have to undergo a second surgery to remove it.

Memphis, which has both significant aerospace and medical device industries, is sure to benefit from the establishment of a metal 3D printing lab at its university. We’ll keep our ears open for innovative research coming from the $2 million lab in the future.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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