2021 NSF CAREER Award: Nicholas Meisel


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Nicholas Meisel, assistant professor of engineering design at Penn State, earned a five-year, $556,586 NSF CAREER Award for a project titled “Consideration of manufacturability in early state design for additive manufacturing.”

What do you want to understand or solve through this project? 

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, opens new opportunities for design innovation, thanks to its ability to produce parts of seemingly infinite geometric complexity. However, designers' traditional assumptions of manufacturability may unintentionally limit them from taking full advantage of these opportunities. At the same time, design engineers have to consider new restrictions that AM technology imparts on designs to avoid potential build failure. My CAREER project will help to understand how best to balance these tradeoffs so as to be able to more quickly arrive at viable, creative and manufacturable designs for AM and to reduce product revision in later design stages.

How will advances in this area impact society?

AM has evolved from a prototyping technology into a viable process for producing end-use parts, all the while inverting our traditional understanding of manufacturability. As a result, the global AM market is expected to reach over $40 billion by the end of 2025 and has been identified as an important facet of the United States’ future global manufacturing competitiveness. Through my CAREER research, I will help to improve this competitiveness by enabling companies to better understand AM design and manufacturing capabilities, which can help accelerate industrial adoption of AM and, thus, the innovative potential of their products.

Will undergraduate or graduate students contribute to this research? How? 

The project currently supports two graduate students. The first, a doctoral student in mechanical engineering is undertaking human studies to begin to answer some of the research questions at the core of this CAREER research. At the moment, that includes gaining a fundamental understanding of how engineers’ early-stage designs reflect traditional manufacturing considerations and limitations. The second, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in engineering design, is focusing on developing a novel approach for easily evaluating the suitability of any given design concept for AM. In doing so, he’s paving the way for educational interventions to help students better understand the capabilities and restrictions inherent to AM.

The NSF CAREER Award not only funds a research project, but it also recognizes the potential of the recipient as a researcher, educator and leader in their field. How do you hope to fulfill that potential?

My long-term career goal is to transform engineering design through deliberate and robust integration of design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) considerations into design practice. To accomplish this, I need to establish the design knowledge, skills and tools necessary to free engineers from traditional manufacturing limits hindering product feasibility and viability. This CAREER project helps support my vision, allowing me to address the urgent need for an innovative, yet technically grounded workforce capable of breaking down traditional barriers between the realms of design and manufacturing.

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