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Acutec and Pitt researchers receive grant to improve additive manufacturing

The researchers propose that by integrating a cellular structure, or “latticework,” into the digital blueprint, load-bearing products can be made more sustainably using the additive manufacturing process but still maintain the necessary structural integrity needed.

“When we design a load-bearing structure, we need to span a certain volume. But we don’t need to create an entirely solid object; we just need to create a framework to maintain its structural integrity,” lead researcher Albert To said in a statement. To is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and material science.

“By developing a computational model that allows us to integrate a cellular structure into the designs of AM products, we can reduce weight, maintain load-bearing capacity, and enhance the sustainability of the entire process,” he said.

Because additive manufacturing is so new, To said current computational tools don’t allow for the optimal design of a complex cellular structure within a 3-D printed object.

The project has received $438,000 from America Makes, with an additional $526,000 match from Pitt and corporate partners to fund the research for 18 months. Corporate partners include Acutec Precision Machining Inc., Alcoa Inc.(NYSE: AA), Ansys Inc. (Nasdaq: ANSS), and The ExOne Co. (Nasdaq: XONE).

The project was one of 15 selected by America Makes as part of the organization’s second call for additive manufacturing applied research and development projects and marks the first America Makes award for the Swanson School.

The research team also includes Kevin P. Chen, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering Paul E. Lego, faculty fellow, and David Schmidt, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science.

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