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Swanson School Researchers Receive More than $270K Through Manufacturing PA Initiative

PITTSBURGH (March 29, 2021) — Four University of Pittsburgh researchers at the Swanson School of Engineering have received over $270,000 through Governor Wolf’s Manufacturing PA Initiative to further advance the manufacturing industry in Pennsylvania. The projects are part of the fellowship program through the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), which will offer graduate and undergraduate students a chance to work directly with Pennsylvania’s growing manufacturing industry.

“Our region has had a long history of industrial innovation and manufacturing leadership, from the steel industry that earned Pittsburgh its Steel City nickname to the emerging AI and robotics sector today,” said Brian Gleeson, Harry S. Tack Chaired Professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. “I’m pleased that this initiative recognizes our talented faculty and exceptional students who are advancing that work and making Pittsburgh a leader in manufacturing.”

The program awarded nearly $2 million for 29 research partnerships with 15 Pennsylvania colleges and universities. The projects will “help advance innovation in several sectors of manufacturing, from advanced medical, to waste sustainability, to artificial intelligence,” according to the Commonwealth’s press release.

The Swanson School’s recipients are:

Markus Chmielus, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, received $68,075 for a partnership with ExOne and ANSYS Inc. The project will build reusable N95 mask filters using binder jet 3D-printing, a powder-based additive manufacturing technique that can create optimally-designed structures without the need to machine parts or build tools first. The work will be informed by 3D-modeling and builds on previous work to systematically study and optimize the process. Graduate student Aaron Acierno will join Chmielus on the project, along with an undergraduate student who is yet to be determined.

C. Isaac Garcia, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, received $68,680 for work with the U.S. Steel Corporation Research and Technology Center in Munhall, Pa. The project will study the influence of casting and rolling processes on precipitation reactions in titanium/niobium (Ti/Nb) steels. Garcia will work with Pedro De Souza Ciacco, an associate researcher in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. The project will give Ciacco and an additional undergraduate student this summer the chance to integrate university coursework and sophisticated laboratory tools into problem solving with an established metals producer.

Paul Ohodnicki, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, received $64,433 for work with Carnegie Mellon University and Carpenter Technology Corporation in Philadelphia. The project will explore new ways to process the high-performing commercial iron cobalt-based soft magnetic alloys developed by Carpenter Technology. While traditional processing methods result in a trade-off between mechanical and magnetic properties, the new methods would improve upon these trade-offs to optimize the material’s properties. Ultimately, the project will work towards demonstrating a commercially viable way to make these materials optimal for motors in electric vehicles and hybrid-electric aircrafts. Ohodnicki will work with Tyler Paplham, an undergraduate studying MEMS at Pitt that will be taking a PhD position within his research group, and Walter Robinson, a PhD candidate at Carnegie Mellon University, in collaborations with his colleagues Professors Maarten deBoer and Michael McHenry.

Albert To, William Kepler Whiteford Professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, received $68,900 for his work with Pennsylvania companies Wabtec, ExOne, and ANSYS. The project will overcome a critical issue that hinders the broad adoption of binder jet printing: the warping of jetted parts after they’re treated with heat (sintered). The project will develop a new gradient-based method for minimizing warpage that changes the structures such that they will settle into the correct shapes after printing and sintering. To will work with Basil Paudel and Hao Deng, graduate students in mechanical engineering and materials science.