3D printer at the ANSYS Additive Manufacturing Research Laboratory.

The University of Pittsburgh and ANSYS, a Canonsburg-based simulation software company, have strengthened their commitment to improving additive manufacturing with an expanded partnership.

Yesterday, ANSYS and Pitt announced plans to develop computing technologies that would enable companies to more precisely, quickly and safely design and manufacture products. The partnership will ensure collaborative research between Pitt faculty and students and ANSYS, as well as other industry partners in areas such as biomedical, aerospace and defense.

The deal includes the official dedication of the ANSYS Additive Manufacturing Research Laboratory, a 1,200-square-foot facility located in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering (SSOE). The lab provides access to four state-of-the-art 3D printers and ANSYS simulation software.

ANSYS formed a similar partnership earlier this month when they agreed to build a three-story, 30,000-square-foot engineering lab on Carnegie Mellon University’s campus.

SSOE associate professor Albert To serves as director of the ANSYS Additive Manufacturing Research Laboratory and says ANSYS’s work with Pitt and CMU has helped make Pittsburgh a recognized leader in additive manufacturing, which uses 3D printers to create products by layering metal, plastic or other materials.

“There’s no doubt that the research and educational activities in additive manufacturing have attracted big companies,” says To, citing the recent opening of the GE Center for Additive Technology Advancement (CATA) in Findlay Township as an example. “I believe we will see more companies in the future that will want to establish their additive facilities in Pittsburgh.”

Albert To speaks at ANSYS Additive Manufacturing Research Laboratory dedication. Photo by SSOE/John Altdorfer.
Albert To speaks at the ANSYS Additive Manufacturing Research Laboratory dedication. Photo by SSOE/John Altdorfer.

Additive manufacturing emerged as an alternative to traditional subtractive manufacturing, where hot metal is cast and then shaved down into a desired shape. However, there are still challenges preventing the method from progressing and becoming more widely used. Lasers used in the printing process can melt metal, and rapid heating and cooling can warp and deform the end product.

Pitt researchers and their partners will develop new algorithms that can simulate these outcomes before printing. The approach would reduce the time needed to create a product that looks and functions as expected.

To says they will slowly increase the capabilities of the ANSYS Additive Manufacturing Research Laboratory by bringing in more mechanical testing equipment, furnaces for heat treatment and microstructure characterization tools. They also plan on opening up the lab for outside companies to use.

“There are some logistics to work on,” says To, “but eventually it will be open for businesses to come in and use the machines themselves.”

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated to covering Pittsburgh film culture. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and oversized house cat.