Samuel Ginn College of Engineering

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Auburn University and NASA sign Space Act Agreement on additive manufacturing

John Mason, Auburn University's vice president for research and economic development, and Patrick Scheuermann, director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama

Auburn University and the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering are advancing additive manufacturing research and development for rocket engines and biomedical implants through cooperative agreements with NASA and the University of Memphis’ Herff College of Engineering.

John Mason, Auburn’s vice president for research and economic development, recently signed a Space Act Agreement with Patrick Scheuermann, director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville to explore additive manufacturing applications using metals, polymers and ceramics.

In addition to being more efficient and cost-effective, additive manufacturing allows for unlimited customization of components that traditional machining doesn’t allow. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center uses this key technology to build metal parts for complex rocket engines used on launch vehicles such as the Space Launch System, which is expected to reach destinations as distant as Mars.

“Great partnerships like this will help us get to places where we’ve never been before,” Scheuermann says. “We can make rockets like our predecessors did . . . but it’s really important to infuse additive manufacturing so that the Space Launch System is affordable and sustainable for decades to come.”

Biomedical implants
Students in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering are receiving workforce education and training as part of an industrialized additive manufacturing initiative.

“Engineering education at Auburn is very hands-on,” says Tony Overfelt, William and Elizabeth Reed professor of mechanical engineering. “We are investing in workforce development to educate highly trained technicians and engineers to support economic advancement.”

New additive manufacturing initiatives within the college include a 3-D printing facility housed within the Department of Mechanical Engineering that complements a computer-aided design laboratory. In addition, the college has launched a specialized undergraduate certificate program in additive manufacturing.

A new trend in additive manufacturing is the customization of medical devices. Instead of using off-the-shelf implants, specially tailored hips, knees, vertebrae and more can be designed and manufactured to more perfectly fit patients.

“We seek out relationships with institutions, such as the University of Memphis, that have innovative programs and capabilities that complement our own efforts,” explains Christopher B. Roberts, dean of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. “We are excited to have the opportunity to work with the highly regarded faculty and students at the University of Memphis.”