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Pre-engineering students get hands-on experience in NDSU lab

Patrick Simpson, a mechanical engineering graduate student working in professor Chad Ulven’s Center for Sustainable Materials Science (CSMS) group at NDSU, used the holiday break to teach two North Dakota Tribal College students and a Tribal College faculty member about the latest in 3D printing technology.

Simpson worked with the trio to help them learn about different materials that can be used in 3D printing and to get acclimated to the various programs that are used in creating 3D objects.

Both pre-engineering students, Isnala Roan Eagle from Cankdeska Cikana Community College and Dale Walter from Turtle Mountain Community College, are planning to use the 3D printing in their college work, and perhaps in future careers. Austin Allard, pre-engineering instructor at TMCC, also was eager to gain hands-on experience and insight that will be useful for his students.

Simpson discussed the different materials now used in 3D printing, including bio-based products that have been developed through CSMS research.

“We’re attempting to develop better materials,” Simpson said. “The material properties aren’t where they need to be — some are too brittle, while others don’t have the strength needed for industrial applications.”

He noted that 3D printing is an ideal format for creating model parts and prototypes because they can be easily developed and tested. He said Ulven’s lab has tested several prototypes for a local manufacturer, and samples that withstood initial testing would be used to create life-size prototypes for certification at national labs.

Simpson said the benefits of 3D printing to industry are reduced development time, increased efficiency in the testing cycle and reduced cost since the prototypes have already passed initial material and stress tests.

CSMS is a North Dakota Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (ND EPSCoR) research center  focused on developing a better understanding of biocomposites and their potential application as replacements for traditional composites.

The mission of ND EPSCoR is to increase the competitiveness of North Dakota for merit-based grants and contracts in support of research in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Funding is provided by the State of North Dakota and NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Program Track-1 (RII Track-1) Cooperative Agreement Award OIA-1355466.

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