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Rice Students Build Low-Cost Cold Spray Metal 3D Printer Prototype

A team of Rice University students has developed a cold spray metal additive manufacturing device that relies on pressure and velocity rather than temperature to create a metal part. The project won an Excellence in Capstone Engineering Award and first place in the Willy Revolution Award for Outstanding Innovation at the annual Huff OEDK Engineering Design Showcase

Team AeroForge members ⎯ Eli Case, Julianna Dickman, Garrett French, Galio Guo, Douglas Hebda, Grant Samara, Davis Thames and Aasha Zinke ⎯ used the device to successfully deposit copper, demonstrating the viability and potential of their prototype “We’re very excited and very relieved,” Dickman said. “We spent many late nights in the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, and it feels very rewarding to get recognized for our work.”

“Traditional metal 3D printers generally use a laser to melt metal powder into a particular shape, but melting can really impact the properties of your product,” Zinke said. “Cold spray technology, which has been used for coatings, uses velocity instead of heat, basically accelerating metal particles so fast that they adhere to and deform onto a substrate. The system that we’ve designed aims to accomplish that in a 3D printing capacity.”

Applications for the device include the manufacture and repair of metal parts with a complex structure, such as components used in industrial assembly lines or in vehicles or aircraft. Industries that rely on metal components ⎯ automotive, oil and gas, defense ⎯ can incur significant losses as a result of supply chain disruptions, so the team hopes its device can provide a viable, low-cost alternative for making or repairing parts on demand.

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