Publication Date

MRI: Acquisition of a Multi-Material 3D Printer to Enable Novel Multi-disciplinary Research and Research Training
The National Science Foundation
Office of International and Integrative Activities, Major Research Instrumentation Program
Award Amount: $333,531 | Effective Dates: 08/1/2013 – 07/31/2016 | Award ID: CMMI-1337768
Project Personnel: Principal Investigator John Rieffel (Computer Science); co-PIs Ann Anderson (Mechanical Engineering), Steven Rice (Biology); Sr. Personnel Takashi Buma (Electrical & Computer Engineering), Michael Hagerman (Chemistry), Robert Olberg (Biology)
Project Summary: This Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant provides funding for the acquisition of a high resolution, multi-material 3D printer at Union College. By harnessing a huge demand for prototyping technologies, researchers will launch a new era of innovative research, with applications ranging from the neuromechanics of dragonfly capture to the manufacture of novel aerogel coated surfaces to the design of completely soft robots. This will bridge the growing rapid prototyping “knowledge gap” in higher education. The accelerated development cycles facilitated by modern rapid prototyping will enable researchers to continuously iterate and improve upon designs, “failing cheaply and quickly” before arriving at novel and sometimes unexpected solutions. Students across multiple disciplines experienced with the benefits of rapid prototyping will find their services increasingly in demand by employers in coming years. This 3D printer will be at the center of an inherently cross-disciplinary and highly collaborative research program at Union College. Providing a common space in which community members can design solutions and solve problems together will help foster and spark spontaneous interdisciplinary collaborations. Students using the space will be emboldened as craftspersons and enabled as entrepreneurs. Educators at the college will be able to design novel interactive models and demonstrations. Not only will this acquisition help set the standard for the integration of rapid prototyping techniques into undergraduate research and teaching, it will provide tools, methods, and environments around which tomorrow’s designers will coalesce and thrive.