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Astronauts on the International Space Station have had access to an orbiting 3D printer for several years.

Advances in additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, are expanding exponentially.

In the January 2019 Nature magazine, scientists at Imperial College London reported they have discovered how used 3D printers to create architected materials. They deliberately introduce metagrains into the atomic arrangement of a crystal to enhance the mechanical performance of normal crystalline materials — making the printed materials stronger than natural materials. It’s similar to how metal hardening is accomplished today, only faster and more cost effective.

GE Aviation states that they have used additive manufacturing to improve weight efficiency in their new Affinity supersonic jet engine — scheduled to fly in 2023 — and reducing the cost to operate.

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Gateway has had 3D printers since 2009. Students use them to produce prototypes of designs they create in engineering, graphic design and manufacturing academic programs. Staying on the cutting edge of science and technology is important for the laboratory and the classroom. Magdalena Skipper, editor of Nature magazine stated that “3D printing will be a key feature of the fourth industrial revolution, the era of big data, connectivity and human and machine integration.”

Metallurgy was central to the original Industrial Revolution and now 3D printed, architecturally engineered materials are transforming the next revolution in manufacturing.

Gateway will open its expanded 3D printing and industry 4.0 training labs on Oct. 22 at the SC Johnson iMET Center.

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Bryan Albrecht is the president and CEO of Gateway Technical College.

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