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Image: Cesar Torres
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A computer scientist from the University of Texas at Arlington is studying how to integrate materials like clay, silicone, glass, biomaterials and textiles with 3D printing technologies.

Cesar Torres, an assistant professor in UTA’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering, received a three-year, $402,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the project, which will support interdisciplinary undergraduate research in several creative spaces at UTA, including the landmark UTA FabLab. Chris McMurrough, associate professor of education and senior design director for the department, is co-principal investigator.

The team is setting up an NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates site on campus that will allow 10 undergraduate research students from across the United States to participate in the design and development of the next generation of digital manufacturing workflows.

Age-old processes used by glass and ceramic artists are rarely reflected in today’s digital manufacturing technologies. Torres examines these processes from a design perspective to determine how to integrate technology and traditional techniques.

For example, glassmakers use gestures and movements to make sure everyone knows what’s going on throughout the process. Torres and glass research mentor Justin Ginsberg of UTA’s Department of Art and Art History will guide research that places sensors on bodies, clothing and tools to document the complex movements that occur in UTA’s state-of-the-art hot glass workshop. This data will be used to design learning technologies based on artificial intelligence that provide real-time feedback to novice glassmakers.

Torres is also investigating how materials such as clay and silicon can be used in 3D printing. Printing with clay, for example, allows practitioners to recover from setbacks with simple clay forming techniques. Printing with silicone and conductive silicone also offers unique advantages, including wearable, skin-safe, and functional applications. But using them requires leveraging the workflows of hobbyist communities, such as soap and candle makers, Torres said.

“Most people approach manufacturing from an engineering perspective, but there are ways to integrate technology into old processes and improve manufacturing,” said Torres, who runs The Hybrid Atelier, a creative technology research space. “We invite people traditionally excluded from these conversations to participate in this interdisciplinary approach to innovation.”

Torres’ research has great potential for integrating artificial intelligence into society, according to Hong Jiang, chairman of the computer science and engineering department.

“This is exciting research because it expands the standards of what AI should be, giving us insight into what it could be,” Jiang said. “Dr. Torres is very good at integrating creativity and innovation into technology in ways that make it accessible to everyday people in everyday life.”

  • Written by Jeremy Agor, College of Engineering

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