Manufacturing the future

Additive manufacturing, sometimes known as 3D printing, is exactly what it sounds like. Working from a computer-generated 3D model, a “printer” puts down layer after layer of plastic or metal or ceramic, adding layers until the design is realized in a finished part.

“You’re reimagining components from the ground up,” says Rich Martukanitz, director of Penn State’s Center for Innovative Materials Processing through Direct Digital Deposition, known as CIMP-3D. “You can manufacture components having features and characteristics that are near impossible to do with conventional processes. And you drastically cut manufacturing time, materials — and cost.”

There’s lots of buzz about possible uses for this technology, particularly in the aerospace, medical, and oil and gas industries. One immediate application is for personalized orthopedic implants. Here at Penn State, people are using it for all kinds of things, from printing replacement parts for toys to making lifelike decoys of forest pests to creating simple, affordable prosthetic hands for survivors of the civil war in Sierra Leone.

CIMP-3D, a University-wide collaboration operated in partnership with Battelle Memorial Institute and 3D Systems, a maker of 3D printers, is in the forefront of this emerging field. The Center draws faculty from the College of Engineering, the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, the Materials Research Institute, and the Applied Research Laboratory.

CIMP-3D serves as a demonstration facility under the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s Open Manufacturing Program, and is a major partner of America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

The short video above highlights a recent visit to CIMP-3D by Katharine Morgan, Executive Vice President of ASTM International, which develops safety and performance standards for a host of manufacturing industries. Penn State is a member of the ASTM committee that develops standards for 3D printing.

Members of the news media or industry interested in additive manufacturing at Penn State should contact Dr. Rich Martukanitz at 814-863-7282 or

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