LSU Mechanical Engineering Professor Researching 3D Printing of Bridge Structures Via Robotic Systems

Kuka RobotJuly 1, 2024 

BATON ROUGE, LA – LSU Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Genevieve Palardy recently received funding for her research on “free-standing polymer composites for robotic-driven bridge construction.” The $30,000 grant was awarded by the Louisiana Transportation Research Center. LSU ME Assistant Professor Corina Barbalata is working with Palardy on the project.

“The main objective of this project is to perform preliminary research to enable free-standing 3D printing of bridge structures using fiber-reinforced polymers and robotic systems,” Palardy said. “To do this, we proposed two main tasks—study the relationship between material properties and 3D-printing parameters and investigate free-standing 3D-printing capabilities using fiber-reinforced polymers, either with a bench-top printer or robotic arm system.”

At the beginning of the project, Palardy and Barbalata sponsored an ME senior design project for the development of a large-scale robotic system. A team of four ME students combined a Kuka robotic arm with a custom-designed end-effector to print continuous fiber-reinforced photopolymer filaments. Free-standing printing is enabled via UV light, which solidifies the material as it is extruded.

“With free-standing printing, the idea is that you can just print in the air so there is no need for supports, allowing manufacture of a structure more easily with less material waste,” Palardy said. “Also, the flexibility of the robotic arm allows the manufacturing of more complex structures like trusses.”

Palardy and Barbalata are using two different types of resin systems to compare their capabilities in terms of free-standing printing and mechanical performance. One type of resin was synthesized in collaboration with LSU Chemistry Department Chair John Pojman and his students as part of an LaSPACE/LA NASA EPSCoR award. The other resin is a commercially-available photopolymer that solidifies under UV light.

“We did some mechanical characterization on small-scale samples, and then we did some initial prints with the large-scale robotic system to demonstrate that we can print free-standing structures with reasonable quality,” Palardy said. “We hope to get to the bridge or truss structures later on, past this one-year project.”

The project was made possible via support from the LSU Mechanical Engineering Department, the National Science Foundation, and the Louisiana Board of Regents for the Louisiana Materials Design Alliance.

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Contact: Libby Haydel
Communications Manager