DMSE is spread over seven buildings in MIT's main campus. The Department occupies over 45,000 square feet of lab space which is used by hundreds of researchers, including faculty, research scientists, graduate students, and undergraduate researchers (UROPs).
NanoMechanical Technology Laboratory
The NanoLab on the first floor of the Infinite Corridor contains nanoindenters that probe and measure the properties of surfaces of engineering and biological materials.
Laboratory for Advanced Materials
The LAM is a shared facility on the Infinite Corridor that contains a scanning acoustic microscope and a Lakeshore cryogenic probestation, designed for measuring electrical charactistics of a material over a wide temperature range (room temperature down to liquid helium temperature, 4.2K), in high magnetic fields, and at frequencies from dc up to 40 GHz.
Rapid Fabrication Laboratory
Since receiving $175,000 in funding from the Lord Foundation in 2007, the DMSE machining and prototyping shops have evolved from being among the worst at MIT to being well on our way to our goal of rivaling the capabilities of the renowned Media Lab shops and Mechanical Engineering’s Pappalardo Laboratory. The equipment and tools purchased with these funds are being assembled into the DMSE “Rapid Fabrication Laboratory” (RFL), where students can design and build virtually anything. Thus far, some exemplary projects have ranged from custom-built atomic force microscopy stages, to an extremely intricate pair of brass safety goggles, to a sand casting pattern of a Russian church bell. Many graduate students have been using the RFL to build custom experimental equipment for their thesis research. In just a few short months of operation, the RFL has proven to be a great asset to the department: Students now have dedicated departmental space and equipment to learn “hands on” machining and prototyping skills with a wide range of materials that complement classroom concepts.
The RFL boasts a CNC mill and lathe, two 3D printers, a laser cutter, and a CAD/CAM workstation. Much of this equipment has been placed in room 4-131 which connects to the Undergraduate Teaching Laboratory (UGTL) with implications for further incorporation into future departmental teaching activities.
New Equipment in the RFL Purchased with Lord Foundation Funds
- Southwestern Industries DPM SX2 mill. This mill is for cutting and shaping solid materials—typically metals—and is capable of being used manually or in full CNC (computer numerical control) mode. CNC mode allows students to design parts in a CAD program and have the machine mills it automatically. The machine is capable of milling virtually any 2D or 3D shape, even with complex 3D surfaces.
- Southwestern Industries SLX 1630 lathe. This lathe can also be operated both manually and with CNC controls to machine parts directly from CAD/CAM software or to achieve complex shapes. It is capable of turning almost any material: metals, plastics, wood, composites. The Southwestern machines are great for teaching because they allow students without machining experience the chance to learn traditional machining skills as well as more advanced computer-based machining.
- Universal Laser System V460 laser engraver/cutter with a 60 watt laser. We were fortunate to purchase this machine at almost a 50% discount. A laser cutter is able to cut 2-dimensional shapes from most non-metals. It is also able to engrave and etch metals and glass. It is a great tool for the RFL for cutting prototype parts from plastic and wood, and also for marking glass and metal parts.
- Z Corporation Z310 plus 3D printer. This machine is able to print actual models of parts drawn in CAD software. If a student draws a part in CAD, he or she can then print the 3D part in a plaster- or starch-based material with this machine. This machine is mainly used for rapid prototyping and proof-of-concept modeling, but also has some unique applications in the foundry—directly investing and casting 3D-printed models, or even casting into 3D-printed molds.
- Dimension BST 1200 ES 3D printer. This machine functions like the one made by Z Corporation—it produces a physical model of CAD drawings, but does so with a completely different material, ABS plastic. ABS is a tough, strong plastic much like the material from which Legos and automobile bumpers are made. While the Z Corporation machine is mostly for fast proof-of-concept modeling and foundry applications, the Dimension printer can print plastic parts that are strong and robust enough for use in prototypes or even as vacuum forming molds.
- CAD/CAM workstations purchased for integration with the lathe, mill, laser cutter and 3D printers. The workstation includes MasterCAM for use with the mill, lathe and EDM, as well as SolidWorks and CorelDraw for 3D and 2D modeling. We plan to purchase additional workstations and software packages as demand for the RFL equipment increases.
Lab for Engineering Materials
Construction on the LEM began in spring 2011 and is expected to conclude by the end of the year. The LEM will provide equipment and space for students to work on projects both for classroom subjects (such as 3.042) and for other activities (such as MADMEC).
Other Available Facilities
DMSE researchers make extensive use of MIT's NSF-supported Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC), known locally as the Center for Materials Science and Engineering (CMSE). CMSE has state-of-the-art Shared Experimental Facilities for Analysis, X-ray Diffraction, Electron Microscopy, and Crystal Growth.