“3D printing allows one to turn waste products into something useful,” said Dr. Rigoberto Advincula. His student researchers, like Liam Ramos, were discussing possibilities of using biopolymers derived from shrimp shells.
These were the kinds of conversations when 200 college and graduate students, faculty, researchers and industry representatives got together for the first International Conference on Materials Science and Engineering in the Philippines (ICMSEP). Yes, there’s an engineering field that studies the materials we encounter everyday, and how these are made and modified.
Notably interesting was the breakout session on Additive Manufacturing, or 3D Printing, in lay language. Dr. Rigoberto Advincula who heads the Additive Manufacturing laboratory at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) in Ohio has played a big role in creating opportunities for Filipinos to train in CWRU and come back home to Manila to share their acquired knowledge. The world of 3D Printing is fast expanding and has disrupted the way in which things are designed, prototyped and produced, possibly within a 24-hour cycle, forcing collaboration between designers and materials scientists. Dr. Advincula’s laboratory has hosted Filipinos, from PhD candidates, to even a high school student – his youngest recruit into the field. Kokoy Dizon from Bataan State University spent a year at CWRU. He returned home with papers published under his belt, a clear perspective on how to run a laboratory and how to use the equipment in creating products that solve problems. Liam Ramos, a high school student, spent the summer in CWRU trying to create a resin that is more biocompatible, for potential medical applications.
And much like we’ve seen in science fairs, a Poster Presentation was the culminating activity of the conference. Posters are supposed to present completed or ongoing research, thesis or laboratory projects of university students, and now even a high school student, with Ramos presenting his research. With about 30 posters on stage, for most, it was a chance to showcase their work and discuss ideas. For Ramos, it was a terrifying but rewarding experience, to stand shoulder to shoulder with college and graduate students.
There was no shortage of ideas during the conference. A group called UP Likha 3D, mentored by Professor Jill Manapat of the UP DMMME (Department of Mining, Metallurgical, and Materials Engineering), uses PET bottles to be turned into filament. The group is also developing a bamboo-filled PLA filament, with bamboo serving as reinforcement to make the plastic stronger. These new plastic filaments are turning waste and local materials into value added products. Professor Manapat also mentions collaborations between Engineering and the College of Fine Arts. Designers give engineers a totally different perspective, from technical to functionality to aesthetics.
“From a materials engineering perspective, this is moving the needle in all aspects from research to the academe and to various industries,” says Professor Manapat. Connections have been made, conversations have started, which sets the stage for cross-functional collaboration.
This may all sound foreign now, but this generation of engineers is upskilling and keeping pace with current global technology trends.
Materials Engineering is a new field compared to other engineering programs. A Bachelor of Science degree was only introduced in 1999 in UP Diliman, driven primarily by the growing needs of the semiconductor industry. To this day, only a few universities offer this, specifically U.P. Diliman, Mapua University, University of St. La Salle Bacolod, and Ateneo de Manila University (jointly offered with their BS Chemistry and BS Physics programs).
There was certainly enough exchange in this conference, as international speakers from the USA, Japan, and Taiwan delved on a range of topics from GREENPower, Materials for Energy, Advanced Ceramics, Semiconductors, Biomaterials, Composites, Polymers, Emerging Technologies and Additive Manufacturing. The international speakers are experts in their fields and collaborate with Filipino professors on various projects.
The Institute of Materials Engineers of the Philippines (IMEP), formed in 2013, is the only professional organization of materials engineers of the country. It hosted the recently concluded conference to bring together materials scientists and engineers, locally and internationally, to exchange ideas and create projects for collaboration.