The University of Northern Iowa’s Metal Casting Center installed an ExOne 3-D printer recently, and will use it as part of its training and research program as well as offer printing service for industrial customers. The $1.5-million machine as funded largely by the Iowa Economic Development Authority, with $1.2 million, and UNI and the Metal Casting Center covered the balance.

The UNI Metal Casting Center coordinates research efforts by the university with private-sector applications, and offers R&D service on large-scale projects as well as smaller or individual inquiries. 

The machine converts CAD data into three-dimensional designs in various materials, including bonded sand for molds and cores. It should be fully operational later this month, according to the MCC. The ExOne machine is notable for offering a large build envelope – over 13 cubic feet — which increases the range of commercial possibilities for the technology. The MCC’s director Jerry Thiel said the center also plans to install a smaller, laboratory-scale 3D printer, to be used for researching new aggregates and binders for use in 3D printing.

“The printer will be used to strengthen Iowa's industrial base by bringing advanced manufacturing technology to TechWorks and the state through service to the castings industry under the name of Rapid Casting Technologies,” stated Jerry Thiel, the center’s director.

The Metal Casting Center is part of UNI’s Department of Technology, and located at the Cedar Valley TechWorks in Waterloo, a cluster of business development programs related to local industrial sectors, like biofluids research.