Dr. Sundar Atre Receives Award from Ohio Soybean Council to Study Soy-PK Resin

February 22, 2018

Headshot Sundar AtreLast Fall, Dr. Sundar Atre, a professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department and endowed chair of Manufacturing and Materials, received an award from the Ohio Soybean Council to study 3D Printing with a Soy-PK Resin.

A biodegradable material, the Soy-PK Resin would provide a green alternative to plastics, one that is sturdy, but also easy to apply. Atre, who’s current research involves advanced materials and systems focuses on powder injection molding and additive manufacturing of metals and ceramics, is working to employ the resin in a 3D printer that employs a micro-mirror system to test the unique qualities of soy in this context.

He explains, “The Soy-PK material is interesting because by the nature of that chemistry, these materials I use now go straight into a landfill. The argument now is, can you make a more sustainable product that would have the potential to degrade more rapidly?”

Beyond the potential positive environmental impact, the use of organic materials for 3D printing also offers a comparatively safer medium for public use. Likewise, replacing comparably toxic additives with organic materials allows not only a healthier environment, but allows for a larger potential user base to engage in 3D printing technology.

Atre said, “If you want to have 3D printers in a school environment, office environment, etc., if they are petro-chemical materials, they all have different levels of toxicity. There is a potential that you could make it something that is less intrusive around, for children, in hospitals.”

In addition to the pragmatic uses of organic additive, Atre and his team are exploring the material properties of soy, which may prove softer or more malleable. When employed to engineer prosthetics, additives can at times prove harsher or more abrasive, which he compares to a prosthetic foot crafted for a duck. Atre hopes that in exploring new additives, it may open new doors.

“It’s easy to imagine looking at what those kids printed, to imagine that it could have a softer material, so that there is more comfort for the bird. In addition to the form, there is an organic quality for it too. The potential exists for accessing that also. We are interested in trying to go down that route,” said Atre.

“You see shoe companies going towards 3D printing with the manufacturing time. It’s a drop in the ocean," said Atre of the potential for continued research in organic additives. "There is an argument that you aren’t going to change the environment with this type of change. These chemistries make it easier to change a whole lot of attributes such as appearance, feel, comfort, stuff like that. It gives us creative latitude.”