There is an old joke about engineers that goes like this:
Q: How can you tell which engineers are the extroverts?
A: They are the ones staring at other people’s shoes.
Once you are done laughing, however, I’d like to introduce you to Dr. Christopher Williams whose work as a professor of mechanical engineering and as Director of the Design, Research, and Education for Additive Manufacturing Systems (DREAMS) Lab at Virginia Tech has him acting the social butterfly. At a recent engagement in Newport News where Dr. Williams was asked to share his exciting work with a lay audience, he summed up why people are finding his work and that of VA Tech so interesting:
“So what really sets VA Tech apart in the area of additive manufacturing, or what is more commonly referred to as 3D printing, we have a wide array of technologies that really allow us to print any type of material from polymers to metals, ceramics, biomaterials, nano-composites, and even foundry sands for metal casting. Sometimes a business [will approach us] saying we already make this material, can it be 3D printed? We also have, sometimes where people say we want a new product with new functionality design a new material, a manufacturing process, and the product. And that’s something that VA Tech is very, very capable of. That’s what really sets us apart.”
Recently, he worked with students to create an ‘Ant vehicle’ prototype to be used in disaster relief. The testing of the vehicle involved creating man-made barriers and walking it over natural terrain to see how well it could function in stressful and irregular environments. The vehicle, which is entirely 3D printed, works by using six legs to ‘crawl’ over obstacles as easily as an ant across a picnicker’s unattended potato salad.
This isn’t the first time that the DREAM Lab has worked with the military. Previously, students and faculty collaborated on a project to create a material for lightweight aircraft carrier decks with enhanced cooling possibilities and a second project was undertaken to provide lightweight but stiff armor for military vehicles. However, not everything they work on has a military application. Other projects that they have undertaken have involved the careful study and redesign of bicycle helmet topology.
“Really what we do is we try to push those technologies even further,” said Dr. Williams. “We develop new materials, new processes, and new design applications for this emerging technology to transfer it from a prototyping machine into a true manufacturing platform for creating completely new products with new functionalities.”
“Who knows where that’s going to lead? It’s just, there’s some people whose creative streak can only be stimulated by being able to see and touch and create an object and I think that will unleash a lot of dormant creativity in our society.”
His attitude reflects the general buoyancy experienced by the public in the face of the possibilities for 3D printing. Combine that with the expertise of dedicated faculty such as Christopher Williams and a growing number of bright and energetic students and you truly have a recipe for innovation.
Let us know your thoughts in the VA Tech Ant Vehicle forum thread over at 3DPB.com.
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Stay up-to-date on all the latest news from the 3D printing industry and receive information and offers from third party vendors.
You May Also Like
3D Printing News Unpeeled: Fatigue Strength, Electrochemical Transistors and Anycubic Hack
KTH Royal Institute of Technology along with Stockholm University has made electrochemical transistors using a Nanoscribe 3D printer. This may allow them to relatively easily make small scale and custom...
AddUp Announces Deputy CEO & Innovations in Medical & Injection Molding AM
Global metal 3D printer OEM AddUp, a joint venture between French tire giant Michelin and Paris-based industrial engineering corporation Fives, appointed Julien Marcilly as its new CEO at the end...
Daring AM: The Global Crackdown on 3D Printed Firearms Continues
In the last few years, a surge in police raids uncovering 3D printed guns has led to concerns about their growing association with criminal gangs. Although typically seen as inferior...
3D Printing Webinar and Event Roundup: February 25, 2024
It’s another busy week of webinars and events in the AM industry, including Silicone Expo Europe in Amsterdam, an open house for Massivit in North America, and the AM for...
Upload your 3D Models and get them printed quickly and efficiently.