New 3D printers allow aMDI to expand services, engineering students to learn new process

-Additive manufacturing equipment unique in West Michigan

Two industrial 3D printers were installed in the Shape Corp. Innovation Design Center, giving Grand Valley students opportunities to learn additive manufacturing (AM) and collaborate with area industrial partners to design and build parts or prototypes.

The new equipment also gives Grand Valley's applied Medical Device Institute (aMDI) a second location. A unit of the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing, aMDI has space in the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences. Money to purchase the 3D printers and related equipment came from the $1 million in federal appropriations Grand Valley received last year to expand aMDI's capacity to better serve clients.

Brent Nowak, executive director of aMDI, said the 3DXTech printer, GearBox, is from a Grand Rapids company and provides a "unique open platform that allows our faculty and students to explore, investigate and research the boundaries of science and engineering." 

The Markforged MetalX printer uses a wide range of metals from stainless steel to copper, which Nowak said is a first for GVSU.

nine people, most in light green button down shirts, stand by a large 3D printer in the Shape Corp. Industrial Design Center
Students and staff from the aMDI team stand by the new 3D printer in the Shape Corp. Innovation Design Center. Abishek Balsamy Kamaraj is at far left, Brent Nowak is at far right, John Hall, principal engineer and project manager, is fourth from right.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

"Additive printing means they will be adding to the material, not subtracking through traditional machining or drilling," Nowak said. "There are new design rules and students will have to rethink the process, as they now can build parts that go together, rather than design separate pieces to fit them together, which better prepares them for careers as engineers."

Paul Plotkowski, dean of PCEC, said learning AM will give engineering and computing students a boost as they look for co-op opportunities or jobs.

"This is unique in West Michigan and beyond," Plotkowski said. "We have the ability to provide certification for students and local engineers." 

close up photo of design in a 3D printer
The 3DXTech printer, GearBox, is from a Grand Rapids company.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills
From left, Matthew Hartwell, Hailey Siwek and Cara Franke, members of the aMDI team, work on a computer near the new 3DXTECH Gearbox
From left, Matthew Hartwell, Hailey Siwek and Cara Franke, members of the aMDI team, work on a computer near the new 3DXTECH Gearbox.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills
hands in gloves holding a thin metal sheet with a 3D object on it
Prithwi Raj Das pulls out the test object from the printer.
Image credit - Kendra Stanley-Mills

Abishek Balsamy Kamaraj, assistant professor of engineering, will lead a workshop in the fall for industry partners who want to learn more about AM and its design considerations, processes, applications and workflow. Kamaraj is also developing an AM course for undergraduate and graduate students and said it will likely be offered in the Fall 2024 semester.

Hailey Siwek, who is majoring in computer engineering, was among the initial group of aMDI co-op students and graduate assistants who were trained to use the AM printers. 

"There are similarities between the software used for the AM printers and traditional 3D printers, but with this, I can design something from start to finish," Siwek said. "This process also calls for us to be in the room with clients to listen to what their needs are and get started on the design process."


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