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Tennesse Students Use 3D Printing to Build Robots for FIRST

How many people out there actually enjoyed their science fair projects? I know I did (and I have the medals to prove it), and I didn’t even have the amazing tools available to kids these days. While not exactly a science fair project, students from eight schools in Knox County, Tennesse are using 3D printing as part of their creation process for the FIRST Robotics Competition.

FIRST is a national robotics competition that pits students in grades 9-12 from more than 2,000 schools. Other than the feeling of accomplishment that comes with competing in this sort of event, competitors gain access to nearly $14 million in college scholarships. Sponsors for the event include Autodesk, Microsoft, PTC and Texas Instruments.

FIRST Contestant with 3D printed robotic arm created from titanium.

FIRST Contestant with 3D printed robotic arm created from titanium. Courtesy of ORNL.

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has opened the doors of its Manufacturing Demonstraton Facility to students interested in using additive manufacturing (AM) in creating their robots. ORNL offers ultrasonic consolidation (the Solidica Formation), electron beam melting (the Arcam A2) and direct metal deposition (the POM DMD 103D).

We’re like the three legs of a stool. One, we’re working closely with equipment manufacturers to help them improve quality control and looking at advanced materials. We’re also working with companies that are interested in trying out equipment. Lastly, we’re exposing the next generation of engineers to the next generation of manufacturing. –Lonnie Love, ORNL senior research scientist in robotics

In addition to work space, ORNL is offering the technical knowledge of its staff to act as mentors for the students. Researchers and engineers devote nights and weekends to assisting with the FIRST competition. ORNL also works with AM companies to offer financial contributions and AM materials.

Below you’ll find a video about FIRST narrated by Morgan Freeman.

Sources: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, FIRST

About John Newman

John Newman is a contributing editor to Desktop Engineering magazine. He covers the rapid prototyping and manufacturing beat.

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