This paper reports on a work-in-progress student funded research program to measure the mechanical properties of parts created through additive manufacturing or 3D printing. It is difficult to predict the final performance of 3D printed parts due to the large number of technologies, materials, and print parameters which result in a layered, composite structure that differs considerably from a “solid” part. Our research focus includes print parameters such as infill density and the number of exterior shells. We print parts in our 3D print lab with PLA filament and test them in our materials lab in accordance with ASTM standards for tension and compression testing. An analysis of the stress-strain diagram gives the strength of the part in the elastic region as well as the yield and ultimate stresses. An overall goal of this research is to understand the correlation between print parameters and overall strength to weight ratio to determine the optimal print parameters when designing parts. Additive manufacturing is introduced to freshmen mechanical engineers through experiential learning projects in 2D/3D Modeling and Intro to Engineering Design courses. The knowledge of 3D printing the students acquire in their first year benefits the students for their remaining college years as well as their futures in industry and academia. A further goal of this research program is to enable funded research opportunities at the first year level which is critical to the development of successful student research methodologies and achieving scholarly publications.
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