Additive manufacturing: An education strategy for engineering students

  • Abstract The present study suggests an approach to teaching a novel additive manufacturing (AM) course for engineering students at the graduate level, developed in 2015 and taught currently at Afeka Academic College of Engineering. The proposed course is dedicated to the fundamentals, methods, materials, standards and industrial applications of AM, and involves introduction lectures, special topic lectures organized with industry and academic experts, laboratory training and final engineering projects. For this purpose, a pedagogical project-based learning (PBL) model was developed with the main goal of using the AM techniques for innovation projects dealing with devices for people with disabilities. Three selected study cases of high level student projects designed, printed and presented during the 2017–2018 course are reviewed herein. The first project proposed by the students was to develop and build an opener for medicine containers; the second was to design and build a device for pouring liquids for people with Parkinson’s disease; and the third was to design and construct a 3D puzzle for blind or visually impaired people. All three projects were designed with a computer-aided design program and then printed using the ABS material. Quality control (three-point bending tests and light microscopy) was routinely conducted on standard specimens printed on the same tray with the components. Once the mean maximal flexural stress obtained from the standard specimens exceeded the acceptance values, the parts were approved and assembled, and the mechanical assemblage was examined. The learning process included two iteration steps that were executed to improve and optimize the structural design. The final 3D printed objects, the students’ presentations, their experience, as reflected in their final reports, and their personal written evaluations, lead to the conclusion that the projects served as useful learning experience for engineering education. Hence, it is suggested that modern mechanical engineering education programs should adopt a multidisciplinary PBL approach when developing future AM courses in order to encourage students’ creativity, learning motivation and engagement.