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McCain Foundation Gift Will Finance Study On “Thought Driven 3D Printing” at UNB

The University of New Brunswick in Canada created a postdoctoral fellowship program focused on innovation. Thanks to a $1.25 million gift from The McCain Foundation, the new fellowships aim to equip Ph.D. graduates with the resources they need to transform their research into a product ready for market. These two- to three-year fellowships are valued at $50,000 per year and will be awarded competitively on an annual basis.

The McCain Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowships in Innovation are designed to attract top early-career researchers to UNB. Over the course of their tenure, they will deepen their expertise in a specialist subject under the mentorship of faculty and through partnerships with industry leaders.

UNB President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Eddy Campbell believes the McCain Fellowships will play a key role in driving discovery, expanding knowledge, and advancing the economy in the province and beyond.

“Through the creation of these awards, The McCain Foundation has shown the value that it places on supporting future leaders,” said Dr. Cyr. “I believe that investing in education is the way to bring society into the best possible future, and I look forward to being a part of UNB’s and New Brunswick’s continued leadership in innovation.”

Ed Cyr is the inaugural recipient of the McCain Fellowship

According to a recent article that appeared in the National Post, Cyr will spend his UNB fellowship, valued at $50,000, working to understand the behavior of 3D printed materials with the goal of harnessing their special properties to improve conventional methods of manufacturing.

“We’re not really sure how these materials behave, and how to best use these new methods,” Cyr said in a phone interview. “If we can understand why (these behaviors) are happening … then we can design the part to use the best part of that behavior.”

Many manufacturers have started adopting 3D-printing methods to improve efficiency and cut back on resource waste, said Cyr. Unlike traditional manufacturing processes, he said, in which the desired object is extracted from a block of material, additive manufacturing — the industrial version of 3D-printing — uses chemical compounds to build a digital design layer by layer.

Cyr intends to take the advantages of this technology to the next level by developing 3D-printing methods capable of introducing new behaviors that cannot be found in conventional materials. For example, he said he is studying a printed aluminum alloy that, when put under certain types of stress, increases in strength far more than a typical sheet metal.

“That would be would be useful for something like armor, perhaps, or maybe even building the wall of a ship,” he said. “For impacts happening at higher speed, like an icebreaker, it would become stronger instead of more brittle.”

Later in his research, Cyr said he wants to “push the boundaries” of manufacturing by investigating the possibility of 3D printing powered by thought.

“For a human to sit down and come up with the optimal design, we would have to come up with thousands, and thousands, and that would be incredibly time consuming,” said Cyr. The beauty of a computer is it has the ability to go through those thousands and thousands of designs. It can actually model a total design space and tell us which one is the best, and it can even come up with things we might not even think of.”

 

Mohsen Mohammadi, Cyr’s supervisor at UNB’s Marine Additive Manufacturing Centre of Excellence, said he hopes to take this research out of the lab and into the manufacturing plant as soon as possible.

“We start up from the nano-scale, move up to micro-scale, meso, macro and then we think that we can change things in macro,” said Mohammadi. “I think for sure we will see the factory of the future soon … and it’s going to revolutionize the whole manufacturing medium.”

Mohammadi said the plan is to test Cyr’s research by pairing 3D printing technologies with conventional machinery to create pilot “factories of the future” in New Brunswick. While the so-called “age of automation” may have depressed some labor markets, Mohammadi said he believes the “age of augmentation,” with industry enhanced artificial intelligence, could be a job creator in the province.

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