Project Details


Additive Manufacturing (synonymous with 3D printing) is a process in which successive layers of material are deposited under computer control to create a three-dimensional artifact. The field is estimated to grow to a worldwide revenue of more than $21 billion by the year 2020. While additive manufacturing (AM) is projected to form an important part of the United States' future global manufacturing competitiveness, current industry demands for a skilled AM workforce are not being met. This has lead to universities ramping up their AM course offerings and engineering educators using AM technologies to augment prototyping and manufacturing learning during the design process. Unfortunately, there is no rigorous scientific understanding of the best approach to formally educate students with AM in the classroom or evaluate effective instructional practices. As a result, instructor efforts may not be properly preparing students to utilize AM to improve their designs, a growing area of research termed Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM). To address this educational gap, the objective in this project is to understand how formal undergraduate AM educational approaches impact design learning and creativity in engineering students. This will be determined through evaluation of student design novelty and feasibility as they participate in a variety of DfAM educational units and design activities.

The research questions to be investigated address the impact on student creativity of (i) type of AM instruction; (ii) complexity of design task and (iii) educational level of student. Participants will complete a pre-AM knowledge test, participate in AM training sessions, produce ideas and models for a design challenge and complete a post-AM knowledge test. Standard metrics for creativity assessment such as the Shah, Vargas-Hernandez and Smith metric for novelty, quality and feasibility will be employed.

The best practices identified through this research will inform the creation of a formal DfAM educational intervention in engineering design courses that accounts for the findings in the areas of content focus, design task complexity and structure, activity duration, and student educational level. This will help engineering educators prepare their students with the necessary knowledge, skills, and experiences for the nascent AM workforce, and can be expanded to understand similar effects in Maker Spaces, K-12 education, and industry settings.

Effective start/end date8/1/177/31/21


  • National Science Foundation: $300,000.00


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