UTSA faculty use DoD grant to improve cu

image: UTSA researchers Arturo Montoya, Harry Millwater and David Restrepo have developed new computer designs that could lead to more reliable additively manufactured products.
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Credit: University of Texas at San Antonio

Researchers from UTSA’s Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design are advancing work on a three-year, $659,970 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Army Research to improve the capability of the military to produce parts for critical machinery, including aircraft. Researchers will focus on increasing the reliability of the additive manufacturing (AM) or metal 3D printing process.

The research team includes David RestrepoAssistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UTSA; Harry Milleau, the endowed professor Samuel G. Dawson of the department; and Arturo Montoya, lecturer in mechanical engineering and civil and environmental engineering. They worked on new computer designs that could lead to a more reliable additively manufactured product.

AM is a rapidly growing segment of the engineering industry, expected to grow from $14 billion in 2018 to over $350 billion by 2035.

Working directly from a digital model, additive manufacturing 3D prints objects layer by layer, enabling new designs and innovations that were not possible before. Unlike the traditional manufacturing process, additive manufacturing allows custom parts to be developed on-site for specific uses, alleviating issues such as transportation, storage, long lead times and huge excess inventory.

The downside of AM is the lack of quality manufactured parts. AM involves heating powders with a laser to create a shape, a process known as laser sintering. A significant challenge with current technology is the uncertainty of mechanical properties and component stability as the powder cools and solidifies.

“One of the challenges of metal AM is the difficulty of knowing with 100% certainty what the mechanical properties (such as stiffness and strength) of printed components are,” Restrepo explained. “It is also difficult to predict or reduce the dimensional variability of components against design specifications. These challenges mean that printed parts cannot currently be certified for use in critical components, those which, if they fail, can compromise human lives.

Restrepo added, “We model the laser sintering process to predict the mechanical properties and dimensional stability of components fabricated with AM. The unique ingredient of our models is a technology developed by UTSA for sensitivity analysis. This unique technology will allow us to predict the mechanical properties, reliability and qualifications of parts generated by AM. »

The team’s research was made possible with resources from the UTSA Makerspace. Researchers use his recently unveiled Renishaw 3D printer, a philanthropic donation from a longtime supporter Edward Whitacre Jr..

Renishaw’s 3D printing technology is an integral part of the research project. It allows faculty members and student researchers to fabricate parts and collect data that will confirm their computer models or inform necessary changes to calculations.

“UTSA’s state-of-the-art Makerspace provides technology for students and faculty that dramatically expands the possibilities to research, explore and build,” said Millwater. “The Renishaw 3D printer is a cutting-edge tool that our students can work with throughout their careers as Roadrunners so they come out ready to contribute to their careers from day one.”

“As the use of AM proliferates in more and more industries, exposing our students to its applications throughout their degree programs is of growing importance,” Montoya added. “Whether students employ AM in their careers, a functional understanding of the practice is especially useful for engineers of the future.”

Four other mechanical engineering researchers at various levels are working on the project, including undergraduate students Tim Clairmontgraduate student Aaron Riosdoctoral candidate Juan Sebastien Rincon and postdoctoral fellow Mauricio Aristizabal.

Restrepo said he is always looking for new opportunities for students to engage in hands-on research as part of their studies.

“In my experience, all professors at UTSA are happy to involve students in their research projects,” he said. “If you are interested, stop by office hours or email a professor pursuing research that interests you.”

“Our students are provided with many opportunities to develop practical skills through experiential learning opportunities, such as this research project,” added JoAnn Browning, Dean of Klesse College. “Our new Makerspace and the technology it houses only enhances the potential for students to engage in unprecedented research and design opportunities, right from the first year of their undergraduate degrees.”

UTSA is a level 1 urban service research institution that is committed to meeting the great challenges of society. It’s the engine of San Antonio’s knowledge economy, putting into practice the idea that big universities need big cities and big cities need big universities.

The UTSA Classroom to Career initiative integrates experiential learning, including internships, service learning, undergraduate research, and study abroad to help students develop the skills employers seek. The program is especially important in linking academic success to life after graduation for historically underserved populations. As part of its strategic plan, UTSA aims for 75% of its undergraduate students to participate in some type of experiential learning upon graduation.

This project, “A Fast and Effective Sensitivity and Uncertainty Quantification Method for Additively Manufactured Metals”, is funded by the US Department of Defense. (Accord W911NF2010315).


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