With additive manufacturing—better known as 3D printing—projected to grow exponentially, so is the need for engineers who can use the technology to overcome barriers and solve problems. A new facility at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is expected to address that need.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing Application Center (I-AMAC) took place on campus Monday, Feb. 13. The new center will be located on the 700 block of M.L. King Blvd.
“This building will enable our faculty, students and industry partners to continue to expand our capability for our future workforce, developing them and developing solutions for manufacturing and related industries, resulting in new jobs and new manufacturing methods, as well as new businesses,” said Dr. Daniel Pack, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
The I-AMAC is designed for two purposes. One is giving senior students the spaces and tools to work on capstone projects they must complete to graduate.
The other is to provide ample, hands-on access to additive manufacturing techniques for all engineering and computer science students, to prepare them for the systems and technology awaiting them in industry, said Jim Newman, head of the UTC Department of Mechanical Engineering.
“They’ve got to have this prerequisite knowledge when they come into the workplace,” he said.
Additive manufacturing builds parts one layer at a time with a spray nozzle moving back and forth similar to an inkjet printer. Industries such as aerospace, automotive, medical, transportation, consumer goods and energy now rely heavily on the technique.
“More and more, industries are realizing that they can cut down design-cycle time and cost by going to additive manufacturing,” Newman said.
At the groundbreaking, Joe Ferguson, chairman of the College of Engineering and Computer Science executive advisory board and former EPB board chair, said the I-AMAC is “all about hands-on,” a critical tool in today’s engineering industry.
“Anybody that’s in the private sector understands how important it is to have people come to your organization that understand that the culture is different. It’s just a different atmosphere,” he said.
Pack noted that the College of Engineering and Computer Science has grown significantly in the last 10 years. In 2012, the college partnered with about 75 local and regional companies, a number that grew to more than 600 in 2022, he said.
“Simply put, the college has grown its size and stature, and we are playing an increasing role in the community, in producing workforce innovation and promoting economic growth,” he said.
Construction will take place in three phases. The first two will be 5,000 square feet each, and the third will be 10,000. The first phase is expected to be finished this year.