Lehigh University has seen significant growth in the field of additive manufacturing since the first 3-D printer arrived on campus in 2014. The printing lab took center stage this Spring during the 2017 Advancing Technology for Business Growth event.

The event, now in its 11th year, is supported by Lehigh Emerging Technologies Network and the university's Center for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, headed by CAMN Director and materials science and engineering professor Rick Vinci.

"[Additive manufacturing] is the kind of technology that benefits from and meets the needs of a diverse set of scholars," said Vinci. "It is an area that is ripe for an injection of really good materials research."

This year, guests had the opportunity to visit the Wilbur Powerhouse and tour the Additive Manufacturing Lab. including a demonstration of its newest addition, the Renishaw industrial platform 3-D metal printer. The Renishaw is only one of a handful located in the United States.

Brian Slocum, Director of the Powerhouse, said the printer, acquired in 2016 as part of a partnership with Renishaw, is currently running stainless steel through the machine. Lehigh is currently working with several regional manufacturers who help supply the lab with materials and metal powders for the machine.

“We are most interested in doing powder development,” Slocum explained.

The lab is home to several other commercial-grade machines, including two Stratasys Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) machines, an Objet 30Pro photopolymer printer, a ZCorp 650 full color binder jetting system, a Hyrel multi-material/multi process system and a SintraTech SLS printer. Wilbur now also houses over 20 consumer 3-D printing machines, all available for use by students. All of these machines are available for both production builds as well as research on new materials and processes.

"We want students to feel empowered to make things and use them," Slocum explains, "and that's what we're starting to see happen."

3-D printable materials (Christa Neu / Lehigh University)

Students can now create 3-D printable materials at Wilbur Powerhouse with metal. (Images by Christa Neu / Lehigh University)