Research Beat: MSE professor looks into the future of additive manufacturing

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Dr. Rainer Hebert works on using metals into additive manufacturing which allows for versatility with extremities in nature. This research looks at ways to use alloys in 3-D printing rather than traditional plastic. (Photo by Erin Knapp/Daily Campus)

Dr. Rainer Hebert, a professor at the University of Connecticut Department of Material Science and Engineering, has been conducting research into the use of metals in additive manufacturing, including powder flow, material data and tendency to fracture. In an interview, Hebert says this research has the potential for usage in numerous industries, including aerospace and submarine construction. 

Additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3-D Printing, uses a computer model to construct a physical object, often made of plastic or metal. Hebert’s work focuses on testing which alloys, or metal mixtures, perform best in additive manufacturing compared to traditional methods.  

“Part of the additive manufacturing research is trying to understand why some alloys will crack or fracture during the process,” Herbert said. “How can we predict fractures in a solid alloy, especially when it is cooling down rapidly from being a liquid?” 

Hebert has described the research as extremely application-oriented, as the data collected from these experiments is used by the National Institute for Undersea Vehicle Technology and the Air Force Research Lab. Both have taken an interest in the growing field of additive manufacturing to create planes and submarines more efficiently. However, many of the details remain classified due to the nature of these institutes. 

While Hebert’s research is focused on the experimental, he said he works with other professors in UConn’s MSE department on modeling the results gathered, including Dr. Pamir Alpay and Dr. Serge Nakhmanson. 

Hebert himself was not always interested in materials science, but moved towards it during his time as a graduate student. 

“I had a master’s degree in physics in Germany, and my thesis paper regarded a lot of materials-related concepts. A colleague of my professor in the US had a materials lab, and invited me to come visit. From there, I switched to materials science at the University of Madison,” Hebert said. 

Herbert also emphasized the importance of graduate and undergraduate student involvement in research. 

“Graduate and undergraduate students are the lifeline of any research project. Without them so much could not be done… To me, the most important values I look for in a student researcher are curiosity and enthusiasm about the field,” Hebert said. 

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