URI professor and URI Foundation team up
to help manufacturers stay a step ahead
KINGSTON, R.I. -- January 13, 2000 -- Thanks to the groundbreaking work
of Brent Stucker, URI assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing
engineering, the University is the only institution in the world to possess
the combination of two machines that will help keep URI researchers and
American manufacturers a step ahead of the rest of the world.
Through creative funding provided by the URI Foundation, Stucker was
able to obtain the selective laser sintering Sinterstation 2500plus and
the Laser Engineered Net Shaping System (LENS) at a total cost of $650,000.
Sintering is heating materials until they are stuck together.
The Sinterstation laser sintering device, made by DTM Corp. Austin, Texas,
replaces an older model that Stucker brought to URI when he moved here from
Texas A&M University. The Sinterstation 2500plus is already being used
in Stucker's Rapid Manufacturing Center, while the LENS machine has been
delivered and has been successfully used since November.
"As far as I know, only one other location in the world has these
two machines, Sandia National Laboratories, but it has the older versions
of the equipment," Stucker said, who lives Richmond.
For URI students and those businesses that financially support the work
of URI's Rapid Manufacturing Center, the purchases are big news. Up until
now, steel was the preferred choice for molds used in plastic injection
molding for mass-produced products. "But steel doesn't cool very fast,
so you can't make as many goods per hour as you might want to, whether they
be cars or G.I. Joes," Stucker said have complex cooling properties.
The Laser Engineered Net Shaping System (LENS), built by Optomec Design
Co., Albuquerque, N.M., allows Stucker to use metal and ceramic powders
to create fully solid structures. "We can design and specify the shape
and materials for each section of the mold or part," Stucker said.
In other words, a metal powder could be used in one section, a ceramic in
another, or a combination in a third. "Now we can make something as
simple as a cube or as complex as a jet engine component, not out of one
costly material, but instead using a costly outer protective covering, like
a titanium alloy, and using a cheap interior. This lowers the cost and improves
"Steel can usually only absorb between 100,000 and 500,000 shots
of molten aluminum during mass production," Stucker said. "But
a die casting tool with a molybdenum (metal) skin and a steel core could
potentially absorb millions of shots during manufacturing." Stucker
said the process used to make jet engines could be radically altered using
such a process. The inside of a jet engine is very hot and corrosive, while
the outside is cold. Using the process just described, the inside of the
engine could be made with a more expensive material and the outside out
of cheaper metal.
In the future when there are long space flights to Mars or Jupiter, missions
would only have to carry various ceramic or metal powders to recreate or
repair parts while in flight. "This is technology NASA could use for
rebuilding parts in space," Stucker said.
The URI Foundation is an independent, charitable corporation, established
in 1957 by an act of the Rhode Island General Assembly. Its purpose is to
encourage and manage private donations, including endowments, for the benefit
of the University. Its 175 trustees elect officers and an executive board
of 19 members.
For Further Information: Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116