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What’s It Made Of? Advincula’s 3D-Printing Lab Maintains Material Focus

It’s a safe bet that something beyond visual design is the impetus in a 3D-printing lab established by Rigoberto Advincula, University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (UT-ORNL) Governor’s Chair of Advanced and Nanostructured Materials. 

“The whole concept is to have a 3D printing lab that’s tied up with materials chemistry and processing,” said Advincula, who is also a faculty member within the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “Some of the important things that the students learn when they take my class, Polymers Plus 3D Printing, are some of the basics of polymerization, properties of polymer materials, processing of polymers, properties of polymers for specific applications, and then connecting it to additive manufacturing so that they can understand how this class of materials plays an important role with the new manufacturing capabilities.” 

The laboratory is part of the initiative with the Tickle College of Engineering to provide more hands-on training and engineering laboratory experience—which advances skills in advanced materials and additive manufacturing. It is also a reflection of the research focus in the Advincula Research Laboratory, part of the Institute for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing (IAMM). 

When the lab opens in 2024 in the Dougherty Engineering Building, students will be able to apply classroom concepts in rheology, thermodynamics, or polymerization chemistry into tangible products that they can hold in their hands. In addition to classes offered in the lab, undergraduates and graduate students from Advincula’s team will supervise open lab hours for fellow student researchers. 

“It’s not a makerspace, although it has elements of that,” said Advincula. “It is a materials-plus-3D-printing lab. Students who want to experience what it is to learn materials and polymer materials, specifically, and its importance or properties when it comes to 3D printing. It’s uniquely offered also as an engineering course, but it’s open to the rest of the students.”