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SME Speaks: Giving Back or Paying it Forward?

Rex K. Brown






Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter to Benjamin Webb dated April 22, 1784: "I do not pretend to give such a Sum; I only lend it to you. When you meet with another honest Man in similar Distress, you must pay me by lending this Sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the Debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro' many hands, before it meets with a Knave that will stop its Progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money."

The words of Benjamin Franklin still hold true today. I myself have benefited from other's paying forward. Over the years I have had several people who have mentored me in both my personal and professional life. The knowledge I have gained from these mentors has been priceless.

My son Ben is presently benefiting from the SME Education Foundation's generosity of paying it forward as a recent recipient of the SME Education Foundation Family Scholarship. In trying to find ways to help fund his college cost, Ben applied for the SME-EF FIRST Robotics Scholarship. While filling out the online application, the question popped up asking if he had a family member who is an SME member. His positive answer (I've been an SME member since 2004) led to him receiving the Family Scholarship. With this generous scholarship, the financial burden of Ben's college expenses has been greatly reduced. My family and I now have the responsibility of paying it forward, as we do not want to be the "knave" that stops this progress.

The Family Scholarship, along with many others awarded by the Foundation every year, is the Foundation's way of paying it forward. In 2008, SME-EF awarded more than $452,000 to deserving students. Through corporate and private donations, the Foundation is able to help many college students pursue their dream of higher education, as well as influence future generations of manufacturing engineers. It is time for all of us that have benefited from the gracious generosity of others to start/continue to pay it forward.

The opportunities to pay forward are endless, and one way to start is by energizing a child's interest in science and engineering. Along with many other organizations, SME is always looking for people to volunteer their time to help mentor, motivate, and inspire kids to choose a field involving math and science, something they might not have done without someone's inspiration or influence. The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Coalition, Project Lead the Way (PLTW), or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) are just a few organizations who share SME's passion for inspiring young people. However, your volunteerism does not need to be confined to young students, it can also include becoming active in the Society by taking part in one or more of its Technical Communities and/or local chapters.

Over the years, I have mentored many young engineers fresh out of college, and also participated in the Direct Digital Manufacturing Tech Group, which is part of SME's Rapid Technologies & Additive Manufacturing Community. However, I have never felt as rewarded or as happy as I have over the last four years mentoring Team Driven #1730, a Lee's Summit, MO, FIRST Robotics high school team. My youngest son, who was a member of Team Driven #1730, is now majoring in mechanical engineering at the Missouri University of Science and Technology because of his participation in this group, which ultimately sparked his interest in robotics. FIRST has now become a family event, with my two sons assisting in the program, and my wife being involved with a regional planning committee.

These are just a few ways I've found of paying it forward. I hope to continue paying it forward in the years to come. My advice to everyone: don't be that knave that stops the chain—pay it forward, doing so can reap great rewards.


About the Author

Rex A. Brown is a principal engineer for the National Nuclear Security Administration's Kansas City Plant (Kansas City, MO), which is operated by Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & Technologies, LLC. Brown, who joined SME in 2004, is currently an advisor for the RTAM/SME's Direct Digital Manufacturing Tech Group.



2009 Innovation: High-Speed Sintering


By Neil Hopkinson
Loughborough University

Rapid prototyping technologies have made enormous steps forward since the "rapid" industry was started in the late 1980s. Improvements in processes, materials, and reliability have seen the technologies being adopted for an increasing range of applications, including functional prototyping and tooling. However, Examples of parts built by high-speed sintering (HSS) at Loughborough University.the most significant examples of adoption of rapid technologies have been in the manufacture of end-use products either as one-offs or as low-volume series production.

By eliminating tooling, these technologies represent a profound set of changes to the future of manufacturing in many sectors. Despite some initial skepticism, it is now widely agreed that these technologies are here to stay as dedicated manufacturing processes. The potential to remove tooling from manufacturing brings economic opportunities that may prove critical for survival and growth. Eliminating tooling means that manufacturing organizations will significantly reduce up-front costs; this will aid cash flow and also de-risk projects. Eradication of tooling also offers technical benefits such as significantly reduced restrictions on design that already allow today's technology adopters to achieve added value in many ways, such as improved product functionality.

So, why is the adoption of these technologies currently a drop in the ocean when compared with, for example, injection molding? Potential users of the technology are frequently put off by the cost and speed of the technologies. How can they justify the expense of high-cost capital equipment with a production rate that is dwarfed by injection molding? These are valid questions and ones that have been addressed by Loughborough University's (Loughborough, Leicestershire, UK) high-speed sintering (HSS) invention.

For a variety of technical reasons, selective laser sintering (SLS) of thermoplastic polymers has proven to be the leading technology used for the rapid production of end-use parts. However, machine costs and throughput are barriers to adoption for many applications. The HSS process addresses the issue of machine cost and throughput with a simple solution—to eliminate the laser. This is done by using print heads that print a radiation-absorbing material (RAM) and an infrared lamp. As with SLS, HSS builds parts layer by layer from powdered material. A layer of material is deposited onto a powder bed and a portion of the surface powder is then melted and consolidated. The difference between SLS and HSS lies in the method of consolidation. Instead of employing a laser, HSS prints the 2-D profile required for each layer using a specially formulated RAM. Infrared energy is then flashed over the bed. The infrared energy is absorbed by the RAM, which heats up and causes underlying powder particles to melt and consolidate. This allows large areas of the bed's surface to be consolidated very quickly, which results in a marked reduction of build time, especially when large cross-sections are sintered. An additional benefit is that the time taken for each layer is independent of the sintered area, leading to improvements in process repeatability.

At present, Loughborough's HSS can produce parts with a layer time of 18 sec; however, improvements in hardware should easily see this figure cut in half. For builds that have a large cross-sectional area, either through a large part bed or through a high part-packing density, this cycle time is a fraction of that required by laser-based systems. Cycle times of this order, coupled with dense packing on large part beds, suggest production of small parts at a rate of less than 1 sec per part, which competes with multi-impression tools in injection molding.

A particularly attractive feature of HSS is that the reduction in layer cycle time does not incur the loss of feature detail seen in many other processes. Parts made by HSS with features as small as 0.5 mm have been built routinely without incurring any time penalty.

As for suitability to industry, a recent case study involved making parts for Renishaw plc, UK. The STL files for the parts were sent at 9 am one morning, the build commenced and was completed during the same day. The following morning the parts were cleaned and dispatched by 11 am. Upon receiving the parts, engineers at Renishaw decided to measure them. They noted that the HSS parts were comfortably within their 0.2-mm tolerances, and observed a marked reduction of warpage compared to some of their "traditionally" laser-sintered parts. Renishaw Rapid Manufacturing Manager Jeremy Pullin concluded: "I can say with complete confidence that the benefits offered by this process would extend the use of RM within Renishaw."

At Loughborough, and a number of other carefully selected organizations, HSS continues to be developed. We hope that a commercialization partner will launch a product within the next year.


SME Members Receive Top Honors

J.H. "Jud" Hall Composites Manufacturing Award

Vernon M. Benson, chief engineer, Composite Structures Development, Allian Techsystems Inc. (Minneapolis), was awarded the 2009 J.H. "Jud" Hall Composites Manufacturing Award by the Composites Manufacturing Tech Group, which is part of SME's Plastics, Composites & Coatings Community. Benson, an SME member since 2007, was presented the award at SME's Composites Manufacturing 2009 and Tooling for Composites event, which was held in San Diego April 29–May 1. He is one of the primary inventors and developers of the automated fiber placement process and related equipment, and has been involved with fiber placement since the process was invented in the 1980s.


Rapid Prototyping Practitioners and Researchers Honored

During SME's RAPID 2009 Conference and Exposition (May 12–14, Schaumberg, IL), three individuals were honored by SME's Rapid Technologies & Additive Manufacturing Community. Andrew M. Christensen, president and chief technical officer of Medical Modeling, Inc. (Golden, CO), received the RTAM/SME Industry Achievement Award, while Frank Liou, PhD, director, interdisciplinary manufacturing engineering program professor at the Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla, MO), and Mary Kinsella, PhD, chief, metals processing section at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (Dayton, OH), received the RTAM/SME Dick Aubin Distinguished Paper Award.

Christensen was honored for introducing EBM technology into the building of customized orthopedic implants in Ti-based alloys as well as custom cranial implants. Christensen, who joined SME in 1998, is an advisor for the RTAM/SME's Medical Applications Tech Group.

Liou and Kinsella were recognized for their technical paper A Rapid Manufacturing Process for High Performance Precision Metal Parts. Hybrid manufacturing of fully dense metal parts is a critical rapid manufacturing technology, because it can directly produce finished products or parts for high-performance applications, such as high stress or high temperature. Liou has been an SME member since 1988. Kinsella, who has been an SME member since 2001, is currently an advisor for the RTAM Community.

To learn more about SME's award and recognition opportunities, visit


This article was first published in the August 2009 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine. 

Published Date : 8/1/2009

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