PULLMAN, Wash. — Miniature disks, gears, machine parts of all kinds – and even simulated human bones – are cranking out of a sophisticated machine in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State University.
The “Fused Deposition Modeling” machine, run by computer-aided design, is the modern chisel and sculpting tool for materials scientist Amit Bandyopadhyay (Bando-pad-aya). The end products are polymer, metal or ceramic parts, originated by CAD files. MME assistant professor Bandyopadhyay in particular is interested in such high-tech pieces for ultrasonic transducers, high-temperature ceramic parts for aerospace applications, and bioceramic models for artificial human bones for medical use.
For his innovative research, practical applications and educational integration of such “rapid-prototyping,” Bandyopadhyay recently was selected by the Office of Naval Research as one of its 19 Young Investigator Program Award winners for 1998. They were chosen from a field of 214 applicants. MME Director Stephen Antolovich says the award is a high professional honor.
Bandyopadhyay will use the $355,000 that accompanies the award over three years, “to pay for the salaries and equipment for more graduate and undergraduate students’ involvement in the exciting new field,” he says. On the other end, these students will be highly sought by manufacturers and product developers desiring faster, higher-quality, better-engineered design and modeling systems for aerospace, automobile and medical use.
The young investigator began his rapid prototyping work during a post-doctoral placement at Rutgers University after earning his Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1995. He says the “fascinating field is only about 10 years old.” Since joining WSU last August, Bandyopadhyay has been involved in the school’s rapid prototyping and manufacturing initiative, focusing on three-dimensional imprinting of objects that really work and have various industrial applications.
With his startup funds, he purchased the FDM machine – which, not incidentally, was originally patented by 1976 MME alumnus Steven Crump, now the president of Statasys in Eden Prairie, Minn., one of the top two rapid prototyping companies in world.
Besides solid freeform fabrication and rapid prototyping, Bandyopadhyay’s research interests include processing of structural, piezoelectric and bioceramics; processing of metals and metal-ceramic composites; binder development and binder burn out; and corrosion and hydrogen embrittlement of metals.

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Editors and Reporters: To arrange to see the machine or talk to Bandyopadhyay, phone 335-4862, or e-mail amitband@mme.wsu.edu