By Eric Lanke
Had to share one more picture from my recent tour of the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) for additive manufacturing at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. As I’ve mentioned before, our friends at the CCEFP helped arrange the tour on the tail end of the Fluid Power Innovation and Research Conference (FPIRC) in October, and it was quite an eye-opening experience for me and the forty-some members of the fluid power industry that chose to participate.
The picture is the FIRST robot built by a team of high school students in the Oak Ridge area. FIRST, if you’re not familiar with it, is a mentor-based program that helps high school students build robots and enter them in national competitions. Those students in Oak Ridge have a very special mentor available to them—Dr. Lonnie Love, who runs the MDF, has a strong interest in fluid power, and who also serves as one of the scientific advisors to the CCEFP.
Is it any surprise then that most of the parts on this robot are 3D printed, and that, with the additional support of the NFPA and NFPA member companies like Bimba and Clippard (look closely, you can see all three logos somewhere on the robot) those 3D printed parts are integrated seamlessly with the on-board fluid power components and system?
Kind of underscores the point I made in a previous post about one way to engage young people in our industry—help them connect it to emerging technologies that they find exciting and interesting.