Ryan Mocadlo ’13 (Chemical Engineering), ’15 (MS Manufacturing Engineering), is a current PhD student. He says the rapid-pace developments in the manufacturing field contribute to a feeling of excitement and incredible change about improving processes. Using that knowledge to make a manufacturing industry that is more efficient, safer, and sustainable for future generations is Mocadlo’s goal. 

What initially sparked your interest in manufacturing?

The initial spark didn't come until later in my graduate studies. As a matter of fact, that interest may have never come to be if my first thesis topic—studying a group of materials known as geopolymers—hadn’t fallen through. I was lucky enough to be picked up by a group of material scientists at WPI working on the new and exciting process known as cold spray. Through collaborations with this group not only was I able to gain insight in the fascinating world of additive manufacturing, but I was also selected to design and fabricate a novel system. Though the project has been a constant challenge with plenty of ups and downs, it has only strengthened the passion I have gained for the discipline of manufacturing.   

What do people not know about manufacturing that you wish they did?

The one thing I'd like them to know is the large revolution that has started­—and will continue—in manufacturing. Many engineers are aware of the efforts and advancements being made in computer models, which are used in everything from fluid flow around high-speed aircrafts to how workers interact with their daily work environment. However, due to the many complexities, strong models for the traditional manufacturing process have lagged, and those for additive process are almost nonexistent. Once the interactions at play during manufacturing processes are sufficient and their accompanying models are robust enough, the use will allow for the specific tailoring of materials to certain applications. The need for exhaustive testing on physical prototypes will no longer exist, leading to rapid innovation in many fields.

What’s the most interesting/surprising thing you've learned about manufacturing while at WPI?

Well, by far the most interesting would have to be the cold spray process itself. Additive manufacturing in general has started to become more common in engineering, and the processes that once mystified us are now more in the realm of traditional manufacturing. However, cold spray is unique in the additive manufacturing world because, unlike the rest, this process is solid state. Instead of building parts by successful deposition of molten metal, this process ejects metal powder particles from a nozzle at such high velocities that once they impact another solid surface they adhere. Better yet, the precise mechanism that allows for this layer-by-layer build-up still eludes those working closest to the process.

How do you hope your contributions to manufacturing will impact the world?

I think, as do most engineers of my generation, the hope is to further challenge and change the harmful and wasteful industrial processes that have begun to plague us. We have come to the realization that this reckless use of the manufacturing process—with little to no thought of the long-term consequences—is not sustainable. I hope that my research into the novel uses of the cold spray process will help contribute to the next generation of manufacturing. One that still allows for the luxuries we have grown accustomed to today, while still making sure future generations enjoy the same opportunities.

The future of manufacturing is balance of both old and new technologies. As with any new technology, many believe it will bring with it a disruptive change in our use and need for previous technologies. However, this will not be the case with manufacturing. While additive manufacturing will bring with it breakthroughs and advancements—previously not possible with traditional manufacturing—it will not be a panacea. There are many areas in engineering where the use of additive manufacturing will not be possible, or beneficial. We still need to have qualified engineers focusing on the traditional manufacturing processes that have helped shape the modern world around us. The innovations in both additive and traditional manufacturing—and the interconnections between the two—will help usher in the future of manufacturing.