Meet new Queen's engineering professor, Vahid Fallah

Posted on February 26, 2018

By Matt Mills, FEAS communications staff

Though the term first appeared in the lexicon not much more than a decade ago, the foundational ideas for additive manufacturing were first proposed early in the 1980s. It was a seductive notion from the outset: that one day virtually anything and everything might be made quickly, cheaply, and precisely with a single type of machine.

Flash forward four decades and the marketplace seems crowded with commercial and consumer additive manufacturing systems. For a few hundred dollars, hobbyists can buy tabletop 3D printers capable of making virtually any novelty toy or figure. Shadetree mechanics can order-up new one-off copies of previously irreplaceable collector car parts. Engineering students have a whole new range of fast and forgiving rapid prototyping options. But, the technology still has some profound limitations.

Vahid Fallah

NEW ADDITION: “I’ll be designing my own customized laser system to give me the flexibility to work around the process parameters in additive manufacturing,” says new Queen’s engineering professor, Dr Vahid Fallah.

“The main obstacle to growth is the limited knowledge of process control and materials control needed to maximize the final properties and outcomes,” says Vahid Fallah, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering (MECH) here at Queen’s. “Right now additive manufacturing is limited to non-structural components that are not meant for load-bearing applications.”

Traditional methods for shaping polymers and metals – casting, stamping, rolling, machining – still most often lead to best results for reproducibility, quality control, strength, and durability. There’s still much research and development work to be done on the input materials, tools, and processes involved in additive manufacturing before that technology can reach its full potential.

“The main obstacle to growth is the limited knowledge of process control and materials control needed to maximize the final properties and outcomes.”

Dr Vahid Fallah

Fallah, one of four brand new faculty members in MECH, has been brought in specifically to push those boundaries by building an additive manufacturing research group here at Queen’s. He earned his PhD in Laser Additive Manufacturing in 2011 at the University of Waterloo then did some post-doctoral work there and at McMaster University. Before joining the faculty at Queen’s, he spent three years in industry as a research scientist at ALCERECO Inc in Kingston.

“For past three years, I’ve been working with aerospace and in the automotive industry, so my specialty and expertise is not limited to additive manufacturing,” says Fallah. “My future research activities will also include developing alloys and processes for the aerospace and automotive industries, particularly for electric vehicles. We can improve additive manufacturing and also, while we work to get closer to conventional processes, we can enjoy the unique capabilities the additive manufacturing provides.”

Input Materials

NEW MATERIALS: One important area of research in additive manufacturing of metals is refining and improving the qualities of the input materials.

Fallah is planning to recruit up to three graduate students to start in September, 2018. He is already at work building collaborative relationships, for example, with researchers at the Laboratory for Powder Processing and Additive Manufacturing of Advanced Materials at McGill University; Queen’s Ultrafast in the Department of Physics, Engineering Physics, and Astronomy here at Queen’s; and various potential industry partners. It’s all groundwork that will lead eventually, he says, to building a research laboratory with the best specialized laser systems and additive manufacturing equipment.

“I’m very open to expand my network inside Queen’s to take on innovative ideas and collaborative projects related to additive manufacturing,” he says. “I’ll be needing complementary expertise including materials science, process design and control, mechanical design, LabVIEW programming, Finite Element modeling, laser optics and anything related to those kinds of equipment and processes.”

Input Materials

NEW APPROACHES: Another important area of research in additive manufacturing of metals is improving and developing new control systems that can form the materials precisely and repeatably.