UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Nathan Kizer, a senior studying engineering science in the Penn State Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics, received a $500 award for his honors thesis work from the Acoustical Society of America.
The $500 award will allow Kizer to purchase an ultrasonic transducer and 3D printing filament for his thesis work, where he plans to use acoustic waves in additive manufacturing to allow for on-the-fly error detection while 3D printing.
“During 3D printing, sometimes the plastic filament fails to adhere to the surface you’re printing on because of humidity, room temperature changes and rapid cooling,” Kizer said. “In this experiment, I am monitoring tiny acoustic surface waves using an ultrasonic transducer to do quality control checks while the product is being printed.”
Kizer likened the acoustic waves to the waves found in radio frequencies, microwaves and ultrasounds.
“To check the quality of an item being printed, you send a wave from one transducer into another, and then compare the difference between the two signals to find the failing part,” he said.
Monitoring the printing surface in real time helps prevent material waste and saves time, according to Kizer, because it corrects printed pieces that would otherwise be thrown out.
“Some pieces can be really large and take up to 36 hours to print,” Kizer said. “And if you have an error at hour 30, you would normally have to throw the whole piece away. And during those 30 hours, the 3D printer was occupied and couldn’t be used for another project, which wastes time.”
Christopher Kube, assistant professor of engineering science and mechanics in the Penn State College of Engineering, is working closely with Kizer on the project as his academic adviser.
“We are excited to provide a technique that improves 3D printed part quality while simultaneously helping to eliminate plastic waste,” Kube said. “This is an excellent example of how acoustics can be used as a practical tool well beyond what we typically associate acoustics with in our everyday lives.”
Kizer is part of the Penn State Millennium Scholars Program, a high-achieving group of undergraduates made up of predominantly underrepresented minorities and women who major in STEM — or science, technology, engineering and mathematics — fields. The scholars live in a learning community during their first two years of college and are encouraged to apply for doctoral programs when they graduate.
Kizer plans to remain at Penn State for graduate school to pursue a doctorate in engineering science and mechanics.
“Nathan is a promising young researcher who is highly deserving of this award from the Acoustical Society,” Kube said.