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“When you think of 3D printing, it’s with plastic or metal,” said Edgar Mendoza. “But there’s not much research done in using ceramics.”

Mendoza is a Ph.D. candidate co-advised by Mechanical Engineering Professors Jack Beuth and Reeja Jayan. With his advisors, Mendoza learns about an unusual combination of fields: Beuth’s metallic additive manufacturing and Jayan’s ceramics research. “I wanted to merge their fields,” Mendoza remarked, “and so we decided to pursue the emerging field of ceramic additive manufacturing.”

Mendoza recently received the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship to pursue this line of research.

Mendoza received his B.S. in mechanical engineering at UCLA in his native Los Angeles. He chose to pursue his Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon because of the research, career, and outreach opportunities at the university. “I feel like outreach isn’t necessarily important to many,” he said, “but it shouldn’t be overlooked.” 

Only so few students receive this kind of award. It means the National Science Foundation believes in our team’s research.

Edgar Mendoza, Ph.D. candidate, Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

When Mendoza arrived at CMU, both Beuth and Jayan invited him to their labs, so he chose them as co-advisors. “They’re both great mentors, and I didn’t want to lose one over the other,” he said. In blending his advisors’ curricula, Mendoza wondered why ceramics hadn’t yet been used in 3D printing. “We looked at this issue and said, ‘There must be a reason why people aren’t doing it.’” He discovered the roadblocks, but also that these could be overcome.

In his NSF proposal, Mendoza emphasized that he, Jayan, and Beuth are positioned to combine expertise to create unheard-of technologies and processes. “My advisors threw a lot of information at me,” he said. “And it was my job to create a story based on sound scientific principles to prove that we can tackle the current problems in ceramic additive manufacturing.” Because this research would be so new, Mendoza wanted to engage the audience and demonstrate his work’s value. “We were excited about this, and we wanted the audience to get excited with us,” he said.

High-purity ceramics have great advantages, such as high hardness and temperature resistance, but they can be made only with temperatures achievable in an industrial blast furnace. Jayan researches how to reduce these temperature requirements; Mendoza aims to apply this technology to additive manufacturing with Beuth’s help. To additively manufacturing ceramics at relatively lower temperatures could assist industries such as aerospace, automobile, and energy.

When he received the NSF fellowship, Mendoza and his advisors were elated. “Only so few students receive this kind of award,” he pointed out. “It means the National Science Foundation believes in our team’s research.”