By Guest Blogger Matthew Burkhart October 2021

My name is Matthew Burkhart, and I spent the summer of 2021 working as an engineering intern for Fabrisonic. I am currently a senior at The Ohio State University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering.

Prior to applying to Fabrisonic, I had little knowledge of additive manufacturing. I applied to Fabrisonic in January of 2020 for a part-time student machine operator position. This was a step outside of my comfort zone as I had never operated a CNC mill.  The minimal 3D printing experience I had was from high school.

After getting hired, I was introduced to Fabrisonic’s ultrasonic additive manufacturing (UAM) technology, and it immediately drew my curiosity. I began working on Fabrisonic’s SonicLayer 4000 producing early-stage production parts that involved welding aluminum sheets onto parts with various geometries. This was a great opportunity to expand my knowledge of UAM. I also worked with our great team of engineers and technicians to help develop my intuition into the additive manufacturing process.

Figure 1 Fabrisonic SonicLayer 4000

My experience as a part-time operator opened the door for me to become an engineering intern for Fabrisonic. As an engineering intern for Fabrisonic, I was immediately given a good amount of responsibility. I was tasked with building a SonicLayer 1200 machine. The SonicLayer 1200 is based on a Tormach 1100 MX CNC mill that is retrofitted with Fabrisonic’s UAM assembly. It is Fabrisonic’s smallest machine with its 10 x10 x 10-inch build volume. The SonicLayer 1200 is a very user-friendly machine and is a less expensive option for UAM capabilities.

Working on the SonicLayer 1200 has been a great experience for me to develop my skill set as an engineer. The responsibility that I was given on this project as an intern has been my favorite part of working with Fabrisonic. At larger companies, it is rare that an intern would be given this amount of responsibility. The startup environment of Fabrisonic gave me the opportunity to develop hands-on experience and play a part in the development of several projects.

My work has involved placing work orders with machine shops, developing electrical circuits, routing pneumatic lines, constructing the UAM components such as the weld head assembly below.  I also aided in the final assembly of the machine. I followed the lead of our production engineer Dan King, but I was expected to contribute a large role in the overall development of the machine.

Figure 2 Fabrisonic UAM weld head assembly

We recently finished the assembly of this machine and running test programs to certify its completion. It has been a great experience working on this project from its start and seeing the final product in operation. The machine recently shipped to its new home. 

Figure 3 Fabrisonic prepares to ship a SonicLayer 1200 machine

Now that my senior year has started, I look to apply my newfound knowledge about additive manufacturing to the senior design project. The introduction to additive manufacturing has helped me find my path within the vast aerospace field. I believe the application of UAM in the aerospace field will continue to grow and I want to be a part of this growth.

There are currently many design challenges facing the aerospace industry that I believe UAM can help solve. One of these challenges is heat dissipation. This is especially true for hypersonic flight conditions where temperatures can reach upwards of 2000 °C. With current subtractive manufacturing techniques, it is very difficult to create complex geometries within the structure of an aircraft. Using additive manufacturing techniques, it is possible to develop much more effective cooling channels that could be utilized within hypersonic aircraft such as with the heat exchanger examples below.

Figure 4 3D metal printed heat exchangers from Fabrisonic

My internship at Fabrisonic has been a very rewarding experience. It has helped me develop a background in additive manufacturing and given me the opportunity to expand my skillset. The future of additive manufacturing is very promising, and I am very grateful for the opportunity I was given to work with Fabrisonic’s great team of engineers and technicians.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *