CAMAL Applies Multidisciplinary Approach to 3D Printing

Original article by Amber Detwiler.

For over 19 years, the Center for Additive Manufacturing and Logistics (CAMAL) has been a national and global leader in additive manufacturing. Now, they are preparing to move from their current location in Daniels Hall to the new Fitts-Woolard Hall on Centennial Campus.

Ola Harrysson, Fitts Distinguished Professor in the department of Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and director of CAMAL, explained the process commonly known as 3D printing, which is a huge part of what the center does.

“The official name in industry is additive manufacturing,” Harrysson said. “The reason for that is all of these processes work with you, depositing material on top of each other. So, you’re layer-by-layer of building up your points. That’s why it’s called additive manufacturing.”

Harrysson said while 3D printing has been around for roughly 30 years, printing with metal is a much more recent development, and CAMAL actually purchased the very first commercial metal 3D printer in the world. The center works with small businesses as well as national and even international organizations.

“We do a lot of research that is sponsored directly by the industry, so companies are coming to us and signing research contracts,” Harrysson said. “We also write our own proposals, research proposals to the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, NASA, Office of Naval Research and so on. So, it’s a mix of all kinds of research.”

Harrysson said undergraduate students have been involved in CAMAL since it started in 2000. This semester, the center will be employing 12 undergraduates, 4-5 master’s students, and five Ph.D. students.

“We’ve always had undergrads working in the lab, and for multiple reasons,” Harrysson said. “One is just to get undergrads involved in research … Once they get involved and in research, then they start thinking about grad school, and actually a large portion of our Ph.D. students have been undergrad students [at NC State].”

According to Harrysson, the 12 undergraduates working in CAMAL this semester are from all engineering departments, with exceptions for computer science and nuclear engineering. However, students can come from all sorts of backgrounds; Harrysson even has experience working with the NC State Veterinary School.

“Almost everything that we do becomes multidisciplinary,” Harrysson said. “One thing that we do on a regular basis is rebuild our machines to make them better and more advanced, and so a lot of times we need people with electronic skills … They might not be doing research on the metal side or the material side, but they’re helping out with that.”

Christopher Rock, research associate professor, said his main goals for the center are to bring in funding, publish research, and train and mentor students.

“We don’t have to have all the expertise in-house because we can reach out to our colleagues and collaborate across the university,” Rock said. “We have projects in biology, projects in engineering and projects in medicine.”

The move to Fitts-Woolard Hall will have a large impact on CAMAL. Harrysson said the hope is to move into the new space by the end of summer 2020, but moving so much equipment that is constantly in use could present a challenge.

“We do have many projects going on at any given time,” Harrysson said. “If a machine is tied up, we’re going to have to try to delay moving that until that has been met, and shut it down and get it moved over.”

The lab will be open in Fitts-Woolard Hall on Centennial Campus, set to be finished in summer of 2020.