Finally the research effort has found some traction. I am super excited to have something I can pour my efforts into and see it move forward. I hope I can post somewhat infrequently with some updates as to the state of my academic work, pitfalls, and victories. I’ll try to make these updates sequential so I can look back on these in somewhat of a chronological order.
Update numero uno.
A little backstory… I spent probably a couple of months going round and round trying to find a research topic that was (1) realistic with the facilities and resource available at Osaka University, (2) of interest to me, and (3) had the opportunity to be “new” enough for me to do meaningful work that would be publishable. After several long months, I think my advising professor and I have found that sweet spot of research topics. Much to my delight (and after a little bit of suggestion and pressure on my faculty), I’ll be investigating the material science and manufacturing engineering of a small niche of additive manufacturing. Now, for most of you those words are pretty meaningless. However, a more popular name for this is known as 3D printing or rapid prototyping. The differences between those two and what I will be working on is the working material and end product goal. Let me give you a brief rundown of the state of the technology.
For about the past two decades making things with a laser out of a powdered material, layer-by-layer, has been around. The technology has matured to the point where making stuff out of polymers has gone fairly mainstream. Hobbyists can now build their own 3D printer at home and make small parts or objects using their home-built devices after acquiring their raw powder (something fairly easy to do with polymers (plastics)). For the past decade or so, companies could make prototypes or injection molds for other plastic or low melting temperature metal alloys. This is all well and good, but the real goal is to make the real deal, end-use parts from this process. And this is where academic and industry research steps in.
Specifically, I will be working with some stainless steels trying to isolate the operational parameters of a particular laser sintering machine to get relatively good powder consolidation (a mighty goal indeed). After we hit that milestone, we’ll work on quantifying the mechanical properties of the as-sintered metals along with a bevy of different configurations to help quantify and qualify the manufacturing process. One of the neat experiments we can run is high strain rate tensile and compression tests. This type of testing has not really been done on bulk materials manufactured this way. There are a whole host of other exciting things I will be looking at that I don’t really want to disclose until we have some preliminary data and documentation to support it. So, come back later!
So, what’s this particular update all about? At the moment I am writing my research plan to help organize my time and experimental method to the finest detail. I will be using some equipment at another research institute (that’s an unfriendly 1.5 hours away), so my time is valuable and must be properly planned before arriving. Also, at the moment, we’re working with our material supplier to get a powdered form of a particular alloy in just the right configuration to be used with the laser sintering machine. So, there is a bit of waiting involved at the moment.
I’ll do my best to keep you posted (with pictures too!) as work gets underway. The more I write about my research and document it, the easier my thesis will be easier to write! So, I have my own self-serving interest here to keep updating the blog.
Until next time, keep learning!
For your reading pleasure, here are a couple of wiki articles on the general technology I will be working on improving:
Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing)
Selective Laser Sintering