A Fresh Take on Research
Eric Yu and Jinseok Yeom, students in UT Austin’s award-winning Freshman Research Initiative (FRI), set out to solve a problem with one of the most popular and affordable types of 3-D printers.
These printers, which cost just a few hundred dollars, use a technology called fused deposition modeling (FDM), in which objects are built up layer by layer by heating plastic filaments. This allows you to build almost any small object you can imagine, including a rabbit like this one. But these printers have a big drawback: any part of the object that hangs out away from the rest, say a bunny’s ears, tends to sag before the plastic cools and stiffens. Yu and Yeom spent a year designing software that, for a given 3-D shape, generates many different ways to divide up the object for printing and arrive at the most efficient one.
FRI offers first- and second-year students the opportunity to engage in authentic research experiences. Students work to solve real-world problems, while being supported and mentored by scientists and graduate students. FRI students have written more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers and presented at conferences. The paper Yu and Yeom wrote about improving efficiency in 3-D printing took first place at the 2017 Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference. Coauthors on the paper were UT Austin computer scientists Cem Tutum, Etienne Vouga and Risto Miikkulainen.