ME researcher to study best materials for 3D printing in space

Mechanical engineering assistant professor Jaime Juarez
Juarez

ME assistant professor Jaime Juárez recently received funding from the Iowa Space Grant Consortium’s Early Career Investigator Research Program to study materials than can effectively be manufactured on a 3D printer in outer space.

Juárez’s research project – Acoustically-Mediated Multi-Material 3D Printing for Polymer-Microparticle Composites – aims to “develop an acoustic-based 3D printing platform as an effective approach for fabricating polymer-microparticle composite materials.” By having the ability to manufacture crucial components and other materials in space, it would lessen the need to stockpile parts that take up crucial cargo space in space crafts. This could have a significant financial impact as current costs for sending materials to the International Space Station is estimated at $27,000 per pound

This project includes three main research tasks: mounting the existing acoustic device to a 3D printer, extruding polymer fibers with internally ordered microparticles, and testing the effect of particle order on mechanical properties. Juárez will assemble a team of undergraduate and graduate student researchers and will also work with officials from the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. on the project.

The results of the study “will be used to evaluate and improve acoustofluidic-mediated assembly as a pathway towards 3D multi-material printing of polymer-particle composites.” Within the next five years Juárez hopes “to establish the foundation for a high-impact research program that enables high-throughput additive manufacturing of soft materials.”

Work on this project will began this month and is expected to be completed by June 2018.

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