3-D Printing is a Solid Venture for Multidisciplinary Engineering Student

By Rachel Baker, Penn State University

Thursday September 11th, 2014

Original Publication: http://news.psu.edu/story/325914/2014/09/11/academics/3-d-printing-solid-venture-multidisciplinary-engineering-student

  Joseph Sinclair displays a project printed on one of his 3-D printers.    Image: Rachel Baker

Joseph Sinclair displays a project printed on one of his 3-D printers.

Image: Rachel Baker

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Joseph Sinclair has a busy schedule to manage as a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, nuclear engineering and engineering science. In addition to maintaining a rigorous course schedule, he also finds time to run Solid Dynamics LLC, a rapid prototyping service that utilizes the latest techniques in additive manufacturing to design and produce quality products.

Sinclair’s service specializes in every step of product creation, beginning with designing a client’s concept, to developing prototypes and printing finished, end-use products. With a total of seven 3-D printers under his control, Sinclair is able to print in different colors and various materials, creating durable products to client specifications. He has a specialized knowledge of polymers and fluid flow which enables him to prevent his products from warping, increasing the lifetime and overall strength of the products.

However, this knowledge didn’t come easily. On the first day of use, he broke the first 3-D printer he owned, a model bought following his high school graduation. His engineering knowledge complements the tendency to dismantle objects to learn their inner workings. This ability to combine a scientific background with troubleshooting skills contributes heavily to his ongoing success.

“Maintenance is a huge part of the additive manufacturing industry,” Sinclair said. “A nerd alone can’t do this; a guy who digs ditches can’t do this. But a nerd who digs ditches can.” He estimates that he has put in a few thousand hours of print time in the last two years alone.

Sinclair’s coursework has been invaluable to his academic and professional endeavors. He explained that NucE 450 increased his knowledge of sensors, a crucial part of the additive manufacturing industry, ME 360 taught him to describe the quantitative application of various materials and geometries to the design of machines, and NucE 310W developed his ability to describe technical processes to non-technical clients.

Solid Dynamics’ first client was VorTic LLC, a company also run by current and former Penn State students, which wanted a prototype of their unique watch components. Sinclair developed functional 3-D printed models for VorTic; with these models, his client went on to win the MNE Department Boeing Innovation Competition.

Since Sinclair’s business opened in January, he has hired a team of undergraduate engineering students to assist with the client workload. When not developing products for clients, the Reading, Pennsylvania-area native works on artificial intelligence for 3-D printers and explores ideas that he hopes will contribute to society.

“There is no other term but ‘limitless’ for the applications of additive manufacturing,” Sinclair said. “We are just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the possibilities of 3-D printing.”