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A technician scans a device to print a 3-D prototype at LSU. LSU and four Louisiana universities are collaborating on a five-year $20 million federal project to develop new 3-D printing technologies and materials to support manufacturing industries in the state and country.

LSU is leading a $20 million project with four other Louisiana universities aimed at producing new 3-D printing technologies and materials to boost a range of manufacturing industries.

The five-year National Science Foundation grant will support 14 new faculty at universities that are part of the newly established Louisiana Materials Design Alliance. They are LSU, Southern University, Tulane University, University of Louisiana Lafayette and Louisiana Tech. The Louisiana Board of Regents is administering the grant.

Officials said 3-D printing technology has the potential to reinvent the manufacturing industry, but the materials currently available do not meet the needs for structural safety and integrity. LAMDA researchers will develop and use advanced machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence, to efficiently hone in on specific materials that can deliver the best performance and structural integrity for 3-D printing, officials said.

“This game-changing work is at the frontiers of science, engineering and education,” said Michael Khonsari, who is the project director for the alliance. “Any trial and error in the lab would take days and years of design. This is why the team will use machine learning to figure out what type of materials to use, and how to optimize them. Essentially, LAMDA will develop a framework for material design guided by machine learning,” said Khonsari, the Dow Chemical Endowed Chair in Rotating Machinery in LSU's Department of Mechanical Engineering. 

The project will support a larger national scientific priority area, said Ann Stapleton, a program research director at the National Science Foundation.

In addition, the faculty will develop new courses and student-led LAMDA research projects to grow a skilled and diverse workforce in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Summer training programs for community college faculty will also provide them with educational tools in 3-D printing methods and software, which can be incorporated into community college classrooms.

"All along the way, LAMDA will work closely with key industry leaders and educate the workforce,” said LSU Vice President of Research and Economic Development Sam Bentley.

“We want an influx of new faculty as well as industry partners to come and work with us,” Khonsari said.