Q&A: Industry-Academic Collaboration in Action

January 15, 2021

Chris Schuppe, general manager – engineering & technology, GE Additive recently caught up with Edward Herderick, director of additive manufacturing, Ohio State University’s Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence to discuss the power of industry and academic collaboration and our recent additive machine donation

(Left to Right: Chris Schuppe, GE Additive, Dr Edward Herderick, Ohio State University) 


GE Additive recently donated a Concept Laser M2 system to OSU and has also granted machines to other universities – how does that fit into our wider business strategy?

Chris: Part of our mission at GE Additive is to change how people approach solving problems using additive technologies. We do this primarily through our AddWorksTM consulting team. Ohio State’s CDME team, coupled with the donation of our M2 machine, supplements those efforts and helps develop future additive experts who will help us continue to transform industries.

Ed: Our mission is to grow additive manufacturing activities with our students, faculty, and ecosystem partners. Working with GE Additive to bring the latest in metal printing is an amazing opportunity to get our students involved with this transformational technology while we work together to mature metal printing for more applications.  

What is the potential for additive technologies within the OSU Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME) and more broadly across the academic world?

Ed: What really gets me excited about additive technologies is this revolutionary capability for product development. We can work on new automotive concepts, deep space rockets, or 3D print roller coasters, all enabled by new additive materials and processes to design structures and properties across length scales from microns to meters.  

Chris: If you think about where metal additive manufacturing is today, we’re only twenty or so years into this journey. There is so much room for advancement in design, process, sensing, materials and analysis. Much of this will develop in the academic world and CDME at Ohio State is well-positioned to be a leader.

How is additive shaping curriculum?

Ed: It’s just so naturally a hands-on, intuitive gateway to digital manufacturing. Starting with a CAD file, moving to machine path planning, and ultimately printing a part out of polymer, metal, ceramic, you name it.  Working with some of our Ohio State College of Engineering capstone teams, the fun part is now they really get to design and build hardware in a way that wasn’t possible before due to time constraints in a semester.  We can design-build-test so quickly that additive has this transformational opportunity for thinking about how we integrate prototyping into teaching. Plus, at the end of the day, it’s totally awesome, fun, and looks amazing on a portfolio or resume!

Chris: Additive by its nature really starts to blur the lines between engineering functions. A good additive engineer needs to understand mechanical design, materials behavior, the software that generates, the part geometry and build file, the sensing system of the machine and many other factors that ultimately determine whether that part will meet its requirements. The speed that Ed mentions also increases the number of iterations and learnings that students can have in a short period of time.


(GE Additive's Concept Laser M2 machine installed at OSU’s Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME))

Do the graduates leaving university looking to enter the additive industry need to be multi-disciplinarians (materials science, design, engineering) or specialists?

Ed: I would answer this question with a YES AND. There’s general knowledge that I hope all our students have for additive, like what are the capabilities for certain classes of additive, how big a part can we easily print, and what are some of the ‘rubber meets the road’ pros and cons.  But then, because of this core digital thread running through it, all our majors can bring something to the table.  I’ve got mechanical engineers, materials folks, ISEs, BMEs, business students and industrial designers. They all bring something to additive and will take some of their learnings out to their chosen field of professional practice.  

Chris: I’m a firm believer in the need for multi-disciplined engineers in the additive space. We need more of these and having facilities like CDME at Ohio State provides students a fertile ground to cultivate these skills.

At times, we still find ourselves challenging engineers’ perceptions and trying to encourage a creative mindset – does that also occur within academia when it comes to additive?

Ed: This question makes me think of how additive really is transformative for product development. The students get a great set of core skills from their coursework. Then as they work on capstone projects, internships, and their engineering clubs (for example the Formula Buckeye team, the Rocket Club or TPEG), they get that exposure to launching not just projects but bringing products to life.  

I think additive is an exciting tool for bringing those two experiences together in a neat way that unlocks creativity. I work with an amazing materials student who is now learning all about new ways to print topology optimized structures. Another amazing cohort of mechanical engineers are learning all about materials selection because that's what they need to figure out to build their capstone rocket project. Additive is great at bringing together these activities and making that cross-disciplinary work accessible in a way that unlocks their ideas.

Chris: I recently worked with the OSU Rocket Club and it was great to see how the students adapted to quickly to new ideas and capabilities that additive provides. Sometimes the fact that they don’t have great depth in traditional manufacturing and approaches can be a strength because they aren’t working to those conventional rules and are more open to the freedom that is available with additive.

America Makes recently announced that OSU had been successful in securing funding to quantify the intrinsic mechanical behavior of additively manufactured metal lattice structures. At a high level will the M2 system be deployed in this project and what lends direct metal laser melting (DMLM) technology particularly well to lattice structures?

Ed: This project is part of America Makes rapid innovation call and is focused on developing new ways of testing lattice structures to understand their properties. In addition to the printing, we’re going to do advanced testing in the OSU Dynamic Mechanics of Materials lab with Jeremy Seidt. The work's objective is to understand the mechanics of how metal printed lattices perform in tensile testing and then to draft a standard for how to test them in such a way that you get a true measure of their strength.

We’re going to use the M2 to print lattice structures using stainless steel. There are two key things that the M2 enables for this project: first is that this rapid innovation call is only a three-month project. There’s absolutely no way we could make and test fifty different lattices using anything other than metal printing in that period. Second, these lattices have very intricate geometries on the millimeter length scale that literally could not be 3D printed let alone made using any technology other than laser powder bed fusion.  

Chris: As Ed describes, the M2’s laser powder bed fusion system is ideal for this type of work with its ability to create shapes down to tenths of millimeters. This is a great example too of the cross-functional nature of additive from creating the CAD files all the way through the characterization of the material properties and how the entire process affects the outcome.

When companies begin to adopt additive and start to deploy additive technology, we often see a natural ecosystem start to form. Are the any similarities in an academic setting? How will students, researchers and faculty be able access the M2?

Ed: Yes. There are so many different interesting problems to work on - from how to control the laser, to how to measure the melt pool while we’re printing, all the way to how to design new heat exchangers. That is a great recipe for bringing together multi-disciplinary teams to work together. As part of CDME, we already have many partners within OSU and outside the university. We have a great story with a local additive manufacturing start-up Proto Precision Additive who incubated in CDME and now has a facility in Hilliard, Ohio. We had a welding engineering student, Daniel Randlett - an undergraduate student researcher at CDME - working on metal printing with the M2. When he graduated, he already had a great relationship with Proto and graduated right into a position with them.

As for access to the equipment, the M2 does have some special requirements in terms of safety handling of the metal powder and the high-power industrial laser. So, it does require extra training to operate it beyond the standard polymer printers. CDME is a user facility. We welcome all Ohio State faculty, staff and students who have projects to use the equipment and then work with our U.S. government and industrial partners on our own projects.

Chris: I love the CDME model because it is hands-on and really fosters collaboration across industries and disciplines to help advance the technology and grow the additive ecosystem in Ohio.

What do you see in the State of Ohio in terms of the growth of 3D printing and how does GE and Ohio State’s presence and expertise in this space foster further growth? 

Ed: This is probably my favorite question because it brings together my two passions: Ohio and 3D printing! There is so much going on in Ohio in terms of 3D printing at universities, dynamic startups and industry. My mission in life is to grow that ecosystem. The arrow is pointing up. I think the key is having a practical engineering mindset grounded in the fact that we have GE, AFRL, NASA and America Makes that is really driving investment and opportunity for young people to get involved with additive.  

Knowing what problems to work on is critical to this---having a roadmap that includes industry, government and academia is critical. When I think of some of the projects that we've worked on at CDME, many of those started with a hallway conversation or with someone at an event in Youngstown or Dayton. It's amazing. GE has been a key part of that, going back to their work with Morris Technologies and now with GE Additive. And of course, in my career path, being a GE alumnus myself.   

At the end of the day, to me, it comes down to two things: people and partnerships. 

Our students have amazing opportunities to work with companies like GE in this metal printing space and it really turbocharges their early career path in a special way. Thinking about the public-private partnerships we have, whether it’s America Makes, AFRL, NASA or JobsOhio, that sets the stage for developing world class 3D printing technology in Ohio.  

Chris: The State of Ohio is a growing leader in additive technologies. GE Additive is developing brand new technologies such as binder jet in Cincinnati but is also leading the world in the introduction of additive parts into GE Aviation’s engines.  

Ed already mentioned Proto Precision, but you also have other great companies innovating with additive across Ohio such as BasTech and Tangible Solutions (both in Dayton) and Slice Manufacturing in Akron. Over time, as companies in the state and further afield expand their use of additive, they are going to need skilled engineers in the field and CDME at OSU provides a great environment to grow these future leaders.