Faculty, students develop eco-friendly material for 3-D printing

group photo
August 17, 2018
student researcher
Student researcher
Research equipment

Pictured above, from left to right, are Kevin Vergenz, mechanical engineering student; Dr. John Obielodan, associate professor of mechanical engineering; Danyal Aqil, mechanical engineering student; Dr. Joseph Wu, associate professor of chemistry; and Jamison Wallace, chemistry student. Student researchers not pictured are Michael Carr, mechanical engineering student, and Zhiwei Yang, software engineering student.

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Dr. John Obielodan, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, and Dr. Joseph Wu, associate professor of chemistry at UW-Platteville, are collaborating through two research grants that they received from the WiSys Technology Foundation and the UW System to develop a thermoplastic biocomposite for 3D printing. Together, along with undergraduate researchers, they are working this summer and beyond to use wood waste extractions to develop a low-cost biocomposite for 3D printing applications and create an eco-friendly substitute to petroleum-based printing products.

On the chemistry side, Wu is focused on extracting raw materials from wood and other organic materials. The product from biological waste will be repurposed for 3D printing. It could have unique properties, and Wu believes this project will lessen the impact of petroleum-based products on the environment.

“We are trying to make a biopolymer using wood waste and other bio-based materials,” Wu said. The project will enable the development of a laboratory-scale system for wood extraction.

Obielodan has expertise in materials and novel structures development using additive manufacturing technologies, also known as 3D printing. He has been working with biomaterials in the 3D printing process for structures fabrication at UW-Platteville.

“The unique properties of the proposed material will differentiate it from existing biodegradable materials in the market and potentially disrupt the market for petroleum-based materials,” Obielodan said. “The fact that the material is biodegradable is one desirable aspect. Another aspect that makes our product better is the low-cost and potential unique properties that are derivable through composition and processing changes.”

Obielodan and Wu said they are excited about the opportunity to work on projects that could influence the 3D printing industry and help the environment. They believe there are many benefits to researching, including professional development for their students and themselves.

Undergraduate research opportunities prepare students for real application in the field. We have very good students at UW-Platteville and they make me really proud.”
                                                                                                          – Dr. Joseph Wu

“Getting funding is important for UW-Platteville,” Wu said. “I spend the time because I want to create research programs for my department and my students. Supervising students in research is time consuming but I want my students to be able to go out and compete with others in the field. Undergraduate research opportunities prepare students for real application in the field. We have very good students at UW-Platteville and they make me really proud.”

Obielodan and Wu enjoy working with cross-disciplinary research projects and with the students in the summer and beyond. Obielodan believes these types of opportunities show students many aspects of research, including the challenges that they might face.

“I enjoy working with the students and watching them gain hands-on experience,” Obielodan said. “Research projects provide perfect opportunities to train students on how to perform systematic investigation that leads to an understanding of what is possible. In the process, students learn what it takes to do research. Sometimes it can be straightforward, and other times it may not. Sometimes we have to change course based on our findings. Also, by working on research, students are becoming more prepared for the industry or graduate school.”

Obielodan and Wu received an Applied Research Grant and support from the Prototype Development Fund through the UW System and the WiSys Technology Foundation. This program encourages faculty and staff to work toward economic development in Wisconsin.


Written by: Dalton Miles, Student Writer, Communications, milesda@uwplatt.edu


Subscribe to news at University of Wisconsin-Platteville using our RSS feed.