Virginia Tech’s DREAMS (Design, Research, and Education for Additive Manufacturing Systems) Lab hopes to encourage 3D printing in young would-be engineers, as well as spread knowledge about additive manufacturing to a wider audience. To do so, the university partnered with the Virginia Tech Applied Research Corporation (VT-ARC) to launch its first ever Additive Manufacturing (AM) Grand Challenge, already underway.
Earlier this year, Virginia Tech undergrad and grad students were invited to design and build their own ground and air vehicles using only a 3D printer, printer feedstock and a kit of electronics for a chance to win $15,000. The final event in the Grand Challenge will take place this week, on May 15, during which we’ll see entrants drive or pilot their vehicles through an obstacle course, photographing four different points in the course. According to the organisers: “Designs will be judged both on their ability to navigate the course (e.g., time to complete mission, number of obstacles cleared) and their effective use of Additive Manufacturing (e.g., time to print and assemble, number of 3D printed parts).”
Sponsored by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR), the National Defense University, Robotic Research, and the Stiefel Family Foundation, the competition was inspired by the anticipated future need of on-location, on-demand manufacturing. We’ve already covered stories about the US military developing mobile fablabs, which may be just the sort of on-demand manufacturing that these organizations have in mind. The mobile labs could take the form of vehicles transporting 3D printers and other high tech equipment across dangerous terrain. Luckily, Virginia Tech and VT-ARC are training the next generation of engineers to meet these needs.
With the success of the event, Virginia Tech and VT-ARC hope to expand it regionally and nationally, possibly bringing the competition to high schools, colleges and makerspaces around the country. Look forward to an AM Grand Challenge near you!