Higher Education: Innovation
Faster 3-D Fabrication
A Daytona Beach startup run by an Embry-Riddle professor and one of his former students is streamlining the 3-D printing design process.
Ali Tamijani, an aerospace engineering professor at Embry-Riddle University, has spent the past decade and a half working on design and simulation technologies for 3-D printing, a process the aerospace and aviation industries have embraced to create prototypes and parts for planes and spacecraft.
The technique builds objects layer by layer from metals, plastics or other composites. The technology offers notable advantages for manufacturers of aircraft and aerospace components, including the ability to make stronger and lighter parts.
While a range of industries has adopted 3-D printing to make medical implants, automobile parts and semiconductors, among other products, the method is not a panacea. “Design for 3-D printing is currently tedious, expensive and failure-prone. The issues with the design process prevent the utilization of the full potential of 3-D printing,” Tamijani says.
To help speed the process, he and his former doctoral student, Zhichao Wang, launched a startup called Novineer, which aims to be a design hub to streamline the design process for 3-D printing.
Most 3-D-manufacturing design teams, Tamijani says, go through a trial-and-error process to develop a needed part — and that process can be constrained or hampered by a product engineer’s background and training, for instance, or by having a limited number of engineers working on a project. Novineer’s software can automate some of that early work by finding the best geometry for a part and the best path for a printer nozzle to follow, for example.
Tamijani says the technology doesn’t eliminate the need for an engineer — they’ll still work on the system requirement, judge the final design and make appropriate adjustments — but automating parts of the process saves the product engineers time. A project that would normally take four days, for example, might now be accomplished in as little as four hours, freeing those engineers to work on other projects “so 3-D printing applications will grow well beyond the current utilization.”
Last year, Novineer landed a $50,000 investment from StarterStudio, a Central Florida non-profit accelerator. The company also won $30,000 from a pitch competition at the Florida Venture Forum’s Early-Stage Capital Conference. It is now working on a beta version of its software.
Like most startup founders, Tamijani has been putting in long hours and working weekends to build the company, but he says it’s an honor be able to see the innovative design technologies that he and his students worked on grow into something bigger. “We didn’t want to see them die in journal papers. We wanted to actually help someone because we thought we could,” he says. “We are going to be successful. We are working on the right problem, and we have the right capabilities.”
Novineer Daytona Beach
Ali Tamijani, a professor of aerospace engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, is CEO; Zhichao Wang, one of Tamijani’s former doctoral students, is chief technical officer.
Novineer’s design technology grew in part out of research that Tamijani and his students did on several government-funded projects, including a multimetal, 3-D-printing project for NASA, a composite, 3-D-printing technology project for the U.S. Navy and a National Science Foundation project optimizing lattice-like structures found in nature (such as honeycombs) to create high-performance parts, such as lightweight aircraft wings and orthopedic implants.
In 2021, Tamijani and his students participated in the NSF’s Innovation Corp (I-Corps), a sevenweek training program that helps scientists and engineers commercialize research. They ended up interviewing engineers, product developers and others involved in 3-D printing to better understand the challenges. “At the end of the process, we understood there are serious problems in design and simulation in 3-D printing,” Tamijani says.