The Department of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin has been a leader in additive manufacturing research and development since the inception of the technology in the 1980s. As the birthplace of selective laser sintering of polymers and metals, the department assumed an early leadership role in the research field by hosting the annual Solid Freeform Fabrication Symposium, the premier international academic conference on additive manufacturing, which now attracts more than 600 researchers per year. Since the inception of selective laser sintering, faculty in the department have led research efforts that span the additive manufacturing field from materials innovations to process development and control, machine design, and design for additive manufacturing techniques.

headshot of Joseph Beaman 

Joseph Beaman

Dr. Joseph Beaman pioneered additive manufacturing in the mid-1980s and has made continued contributions to the field. He was the first academic researcher in the field, and he lead a group of students and colleagues at The University of Texas that developed Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), which is now the most successful SFF process for direct production of high-value, functional parts. Dr. Beaman had the vision and ability to take this revolutionary idea and successfully manage the formation of a company, DTM. While on leave from The University of Texas, Dr. Beaman was in charge of advanced development at DTM through the development of its first commercial SLS machine. DTM was merged with 3D Systems in 2001. Dr. Beaman and his research colleagues at the University developed the fundamental SFF technology that spans machine design, materials, laser scanning techniques, thermal control, metal fabrication, and aerospace and biomedical applications. 

Selective Laser Sintering

 headshot of David Bourell

David Bourell

Dr. David Bourell's expertise is in materials for additive manufacturing. He has worked with metals, ceramics, and polymers. Recent research has focused on expanding the materials palette for metallic powder bed fusion and improving the reliability of laser-sintered polyamide. He was the first person to use a modern additive manufacturing machine to directly process metals. He was the lead author on the first materials-related patent for additive manufacturing, which has been cited by more than 220 other patents. 

Materials for Additive Manufacturing

headshot of Michael Cullinan 

Michael Cullinan

Dr. Michael Cullinan's research focuses on the development of equipment and processes for micro and nanomanufacturing applications. As part of this work, the Nanoscale Design and Manufacturing Laboratory (NDML) at The University of Texas at Austin has developed a new Microscale Selective Laser Sintering (µ-SLS) process that is capable of producing 3D metal parts with a feature size revolutions of 1 um and throughputs competitive with traditional, microscale additive manufacturing processes. The NDML also works to develop computational modeling tools that look at how light interacts with the nanoparticles in the µ-SLS system to cause the particles to heat up and fuse together to form µ-SLS parts. After the parts are fabricated, the NDML has also developed a set of complementary mechanical testing tools to determine how the processing conditions in micro and nano additive manufacturing systems affect the final mechanical quality of the parts produced. 

Microscale Selective Laser Sintering

Mechanical Testing of Micro and Nano AM Parts

Computational Modeling of Micro-AM Processes

headshot of Scott Fish 

Scott Fish

Dr. Scott Fish's research with Dr. Beaman incorporates advanced control methods and novel process developments in additive manufacturing to expand 3D manufacturing with predictive and certifiable products. Their lab includes unique purpose-built equipment for performing laser-based fusion with a variety of nano- and microscale powder materials including high-temperature polymers and ceramics. State-of-the-art thermal and optical measurements in this laboratory are used to develop real-time and feed forward control methods with an eye toward formal documentations of parts as built. 

LAMPS

OCT in Selective Laser Sintering Nylon 12

headshot of Desiderio Kovar 

Desiderio Kovar

Dr. Desiderio Kovar's research interests straddle the interface between between materials science and engineering and additive manufacturing. He and his collaborators are currently studying aerosol processes that utilize high-velocity (1000 m/sec) impaction of solid particles to directly write patterned thick films. This process is capable of producing high-density metallic and ceramic films on polymer, metal, or ceramic substrates. With feature sizes of 10-100 µm, the goal is to directly write conformal, microscale devices. his group is collaborating with Dr. Beaman on processes aimed at additively manufacturing bulk ceramic parts with dimensions of tens of cm. The goal of flash sintering, which was co-invented by his group at The University of Texas at Austin, is to utilize a large electric field to significantly enhance the sintering kinetics of ceramics so that they can be 3D printed. Indirect selective laser sintering utilizes a polymer binder as a fugitive phase to enable 3D printing of ceramic/polymer blends. The polymer is removed via pyrolysis before sintering the ceramic. We are studying the modeling of direct metal deposition to enable better control of additive manufacturing of bulk metallic parts. 

Direct Writing of Thick Films from Aerosols

Additive Manufacturing of Ceramics by Laser Flash Sintering

Indirect Selective Laser Sintering of Ceramics

Additive Manufacturing Using Direct Metal Deposition

headshot of Carolyn Seepersad 

Carolyn Conner Seepersad

Dr. Carolyn Conner Seepersad’s research focuses on the nexus between additive manufacturing and engineering design.  She and her collaborators have designed, fabricated, and tested energy-absorbing honeycombs and metamaterials.  Complimentary work focuses on computational design frameworks for multilevel metamaterials design and design for AM, as well as the development of statistical design guidelines for use in these design efforts.  Her research group also designed, built, and operated the Innovation Station, one of the first 3D printing vending machines.

Energy Absorbing Honeycombs and Metamaterials

Computational Design Frameworks for AM Metamaterials

Design Guidelines for AM

Innovation Station - A 3D Printing Vending Machine

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