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.