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An Interview with Jonathan Jennings and Thalash Batra, SEDS

One of the biggest uses of 3D printing to this point have been in the engineering and manufacturing sectors. Over the last few years we have seen incredible innovations from companies and individuals in these segments, seemingly with greater and greater frequency. As work evolves, so too does education, with several colleges including Xavier, SUNY New Paltz, among others, who are opting to bring 3D printing technology to their campuses through things like MakerBot Innovation Centers, and others who are even bringing just a few units to their campuses. Whatever the situation, exposing students to the technology can have incredible results. Take for example the case of Jonathan Jennings (JJ) and Thalansh Batra (TB). Both are part of a largely student-driven organization known as Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, or SEDS for short. From a recent HARO query, we were introduced to both of these very innovative students and were amazed as to what they have been able to accomplish using 3D printing. Their interviews were conducted via email and our questions with the answers appear below:

1) How did you get your start in 3D printing? What prompted your interest? Had either of you been exposed to the technology through programs in your high schools?
JJ: I did not have any experience with additive manufacturing during high school. I started 3D printing when I helped two students start the University of Missouri 3D Printing Club. I liked the idea of quick design iteration times and cheap cost. I was working on multiple student team projects and it was nice to be able to just throw my ideas into Solidworks and within a few hours have a physical product in my hand. If I didn?t like that part, toss it and redesign. During my office as Treasurer of the Mizzou 3D Printing Club I purchased the clubs first 3D printer. After that I hit the ground running as the clubs sole tech member and put over 2000 hours on one machine that the club owns. TB: 3D printing was a completely new concept introduced to me at my university. I started learning how to CAD and 3D print while I was a part of SEDS UCSD. Having the ability to be surrounded by members who designed a 3D printed rocket engine, really inspired me to learn the technology further and achieve similar milestones.

2) What type of 3D printer(s) are you using for your designs? Also, what other tools like software are you using?
JJ: Machines: (In order of use)
MakerBot replicator 2x
MakerBot Replicator 2
Stratasys Fortus 400
Afinia HD 480
Solidoodle Gen 1
University of Missouri Capstone design Powder based Hp inkjet

Software: (In order of use)
SolidWorks
Makerware (2 versions)
Repetier Host
Createware

TB: I personally use the Makerbot Replicator 2 and the Ultimaker, both these printers have the capability to print fine details. In specific they both have the ability to print at 100 microns layer height, which is very fine. In terms of tools like software, I personally use Solidworks and Fusion 360 to make CAD (Computer-aided Design) models.

 

Another tool, which is a great resource, is a cloud CAD application called 'OnShape', this not only gives you the freedom to access your designs from anywhere, but also allows you to use your phone to model things. Which means even when I am travelling, I am CADing.

3) What types of materials are you using for your models and prints?
JJ: Currently I am using ABS, High Temp ABS, PLA, Carbon fiber-infused, Rubberized, Gypsum, Aluminum Powder

TB: I have used various materials depending on the design and the purpose of my print. Usually PLA is the most common 3D printing filament available and does a good job. Whereas on the other hand, ABS is a much more robust and strong filament compared to PLA and is great for printing parts that require such characteristics.

 

Other filaments that I use are Wooden-PLA, this gives you the ability to print things and then sand them and paint them, this specific filament does a great job for decorative pieces. Other filaments that I have worked with are NinjaFlex and Carbon Fibre. NinjaFlex is a flexible filament which means its has the ability to print things that are flexible in nature.

4) What types of support have you experienced from your respective advisors/professors through the process? Have you been allowed to use this technology as a substitute or add-on to your assigned coursework?
JJ: Support gained from University of Missouri Resources include the following:

  • Organization Resource Group—Funded all tools and our first machine
  • Dr Yuyi Lin provided financial support in exchange for presenting to the Society of Manufacturing engineers
  • Steve Devlin of the engineering entrepreneurial department provided financial support in exchange for showcasing the 3D printing club at for the 175 years of extensions celebration on the university campus and at a remote location.
  • Steve Devlin provided a research opportunity that I took advantage of. I participatedwith undergraduate research on the change of PLA weld strength with variations to print head speed and extrusion temperature. Steve is currently trying to publish my research.
  • The Industrial Advisory Council has provided continuing financial support to the club.
  • The university gave a grant to the current president of the club to start an additive manufacturing business in the main library called Print Anything @ Mizzou to afford the ability of prototyping to the entire university. I was able to be one of the first employees to run the equipment as a tech.

 

There were three classes where additive manufacturing benefited me personally. The first was manufacturing methods where we actually had a full section on additive manufacturing. In this class I had a huge edge on everyone with my previous experience (guess how happy. I was that the final was on 3D printing) and was able to print a small scale Delta iV rocket.

The second class was Design of Thermal Systems where we did a case study on using additive manufacturing with heat pumps. This was interesting as complex geometries previously unavailable to commercial producers allowed increased heat transfer. I gave my teacher a physical print of the heat sink that I designed. He gave me extra credit and said that it was the first time someone turned in an actual prototype.

The third class was my capstone project where I produced and categorized solid rocket fuel. This was a huge project as I was effectively attempting to start a propulsion program at my university. I did over 600 hours of 3D printing to produce my grain production system. It would have been very costly and without this manufacturing technique my project would have not been possible.

TB: At University of California, San Diego we have a designated course for engineering students, MAE-3, this course gives you the freedom to create things using 3D printing. UC San Diego also has multiple 3D printers available to Students at their Digital Media Library.

5) What do you think have been the most easy concepts to learn related to the technology, what have been the most difficult?
JJ: The software and computer aided design is the easiest for sure.

Actually getting the machines to print quality parts is the hard part. I have learned quite a few tricks to get our machines to do what I want in the over 2500 hours of 3D printing that I have done at Mizzou. Learning how to strip the entire machine apart for repairs is also a useful skill.

TB: The most easy concepts to learn were the basics of CADing and using 3D printers in terms of settings. The most difficult concept is to learn how to design details while CADing in terms of precision.

6) What advice would you have for other students looking to get involved with 3D printing in terms of coursework or learning technical skills?
JJ: Solidworks or some type of Computer aided design. They are super easy programs to pick up while they are so integral to the process. If you can come up with the idea (which by the hardest part is figuring out what you want to print) then getting it to a physical part isn?t rocket science. To demystify the machine and make it less intimidating I usually tell students that it is a over glorified glue gun. A little material science never hurt anyone as well.

TB: I would advise first looking for CADs online and start printing things for yourself, this will inspire you to learn how to CAD. Moreover you can use ‘OnShape’ and their Education tutorials to learn how to CAD.

7) What are your future plans with 3D printing in terms of both your education and then on into your careers?
JJ: I will be working at Honeywell Aerospace after graduation and I hope to bring my knowledge there to help reduce cost for part design and to provide the ability of quick multiple iterations of designs. I have helped other companies use the value built into these items and it always turns out well.

TB: Being a part of SEDS UCSD, who are launching the first ever rocket powered by a 3D printed engine using Inconel 718. I plan to use 3D printing for support the New Space and the Maker movement in the coming future with the idea of getting costs down and exploring the world beyond boundaries.

8) Can you provide examples of some of your most successful work to this point?
JJ: Overall my use of 3D printing was through extracurricular student activities with AIAA, ASME, SEDS.

AIAA or the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Mizzou creates and launches a competition rocket with ESRA IREC. They tend to be around 12 foot tall and reach around 10 thousand feet AGL. I used additive manufacturing as plugs to wrap on where there were transitions and the nose cone. I also produced many iterations of electronics bays. One rocket reached mach 1.7- the fastest at the competition and the fastest vehicle ever produced at the university of Missouri by a student.

 

ASME or the American Society of Mechanical Engineers has a competition called the student design competition at the student professional development conference. The year that I was president I made a heavy lift hexicopter. Mainly with 3D printed parts. This year our team used 3D printing to manufacture parts for the machine and won first place in their regional competition. I also lead a capstone team that designed and manufactured a powder based hp inkjet 3D printer in the inaugural ASME IAM3D additive manufacturing competition where we made finals in Montreal Canada at the ASME IMECE.

SEDS or Students for the Exploration and Development of Space is the newest club that I participate in. I founded the club in Oct 2014. During my time there we used additive manufacturing to build parts for high altitude balloon projects, and rocket parts for the SEDS USRC. I am currently the SEDS USRC project manager.

TB: A 3D Printed rocket engine that has the capability of 750 pounds of thrust which has been tested multiple times through hot fire tests. This engine is now flying on the Vulcan-1 rocket by SEDS UCSD.

Also a satellite thruster that's being printed right now.