UC engineering student wins 3D design contest

3D printing has become a ubiquitous tool across UC's colleges

New 3D printers make it easier to design and create objects limited only by the user’s imaginations and digital skills.

University of Cincinnati student Arshad Mohammed put both to the test, winning a national design contest sponsored by Cincinnati software and tech startup Physna. He modified templates on Physna’s open-source site, Thangs.com, to design a functional robot, earning a $5,000 top prize.

“When I saw the announcement of the winner, I thought it was cool that someone from UC had won the contest. Then I saw my name. I was shocked,” Mohammed said. “That’s my name!”

The competition attracted submissions from engineering universities across the country.

"The winning team was chosen by the Thangs.com community through a voting process. The community is composed of all kinds of users — from students to professionals, 3D-printing hobbyists to video game developers,” Physna CEO Paul Powers said.

“Arshad, representing UC, clearly did a fantastic job!”

A student stands in front of a bank of 3D printers at the 1819 Innovation Hub.

UC students print their own designs at UC's 1819 Innovation Hub. UC student Kyle Rickett prepares to remove a finished part in this 2019 file photo. Photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative + Brand

Powers said while Thangs.com is a collaborative forum, 3D design often entails custom work. It’s not always easy to find a template that suits a particular project.

“Creating a model that is useful to the many user types and for multiple-use cases is quite a challenge,” he said.

A miniature Mandalorian figure holds a blaster.

Thangs.com provides a resource for 3D designers to collaborate. Here is a miniature Mandalorian figure created by user Chris L. from itech3dp. Photo/Thangs.com

Mohammed, a mechanical engineering graduate student in UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, works in UC professor Ephraim Gutmark’s lab, where he is designing quieter jet engines for commercial aviation.

“I’ve been using 3D software for the past five years. It’s like bringing to life something from your imagination,” he said.

Now he uses 3D design to create experimental jet engine nozzles that UC is testing for the U.S. Navy.

“To reduce jet noise, we come up with new designs for the jet nozzles and test which is best,” he said.

Students are finding new uses for 3D printing across all colleges at the University of Cincinnati.

In UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, researchers are improving methods for metal printing for additive manufacturing. And the makerspace of UC’s 1819 Innovation Hub is busy night and day with student-designed 3D projects.

Arshad Mohammed leans against a wall outside the Engineering Research Center.

UC College of Engineering and Applied Science student Arshad Mohammed uses 3D printing in professor Ephraim Gutmark's lab to design jet engine nozzles. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Gutmark said 3D printing has become so useful that he invested in a printer for his lab in UC’s Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics.

“3D printing enables us to make special geometry that is very expensive or even impossible to fabricate in traditional ways,” he said.

He also uses 3D printing to replicate airways in the human body for research on respiration with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Gutmark’s research is helping the U.S. military and commercial airline industry design quieter planes using UC’s engine designs. According to the Veterans Affairs, more than 933,000 U.S. veterans received disability compensation for hearing loss in 2014 and 1.3 million more received compensation for a condition called tinnitus.

“These people are exposed to extremely high noise levels. Fighter planes on aircraft carriers must take off with the afterburner,” Gutmark said. “The Navy is spending a lot of money on hearing loss, so it is extremely interested in reducing engine noise.” 

Gutmark said with 3D printing they quickly and cheaply can test dozens of nozzle designs in their lab’s “cold chamber.” The most optimal of these designs are then sent to a custom manufacturer who reproduces them in metal for use in jet afterburner tests that can reach temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees.

“So 3D printing really opens a whole new opportunity for us,” Gutmark said.

Featured image at top: UC College of Engineering and Applied Science student Arshad Mohammed won a national 3D design contest. More UC departments are investing in 3D printing. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

Arshad Mohammed holds up one of his 3D designs on a laptop computer.

UC College of Engineering and Applied Science student Arshad Mohammed learned 3D design as an undergraduate in India. Now he is applying those skills as a graduate student in UC professor Ephraim Gutmark's jet engine lab. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative + Brand

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