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More demand, more additive manufacturing at Lehigh

PHOTO/RYAN HULVAT (COURTESY OF LEHIGH UNIVERSITY BAKER INSTITUTE) Lehigh University technical entrepreneurship master’s degree student Brian Flynn (left) works with Lehigh additive manufacturing coordinator Trevor Verdonik on a product prototype using an Ultimaker 3-D printer.

In response to an increasingly higher demand for time in its 3-D printing lab, Lehigh University has expanded its additive manufacturing capabilities with new equipment and a broad view of the future of this rapidly changing technology.

In response to an increasingly higher demand for time in its 3-D printing lab, Lehigh University has expanded its additive manufacturing capabilities with new equipment and a broad view of the future of this rapidly changing technology.

Additive manufacturing technology can create objects quickly, efficiently and with more flexibility than conventional manufacturing production-line processes.

“Additive changed the landscape because it allows physical prototypes to be available in hours,” said Brian Slocum, managing director of Wilbur Powerhouse and Prototyping Labs at Lehigh University in Bethlehem.

Increasing the number and types of 3-D printers means more students – from entry-level to those pursing advanced degrees – and faculty can conduct research and create projects using the technology.

A recent grant and discussions with two possible corporate donors could provide the capital to bring a new metal 3-D printing device to campus, Lehigh officials said.

Additive manufacturing is the process and technology which allows computer designs to become real objects created with 3-D printers.

With additive manufacturing processes, “You can make any shape using a computer and a 3-D printer,” said Jack Pfunder, president and CEO of Manufacturers Resource Center based in Hanover Township, Lehigh County.

According to Pfunder, a complicated part – requiring 20 different operations, for example – can be created using this process.

“It’s not going to eliminate traditional manufacturing, but it is a specific, highly niche market, and the next innovation could be speed,” he said.

Pfunder said the process is attracting younger students because of the technology with which they are accustomed.

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