Nanoscale Electrochemical Additive Manufacturing

Introduction and Motivation

Technology grows exponentially smaller over time to meet the increasing demands of performance and portability across various industries; these include medicine, consumer products, electronics, aerospace, automotive, defense, and many others. Such shifts in technology have been made possible by ongoing research on the harnessing of scientific phenomena to perform material addition, removal, and/or modification at increasingly small size scales. The mission of the UC Micro and Nano Manufacturing Laboratory is to expand the horizons of what is possible in manufacturing at these size scales by researching the relevant fundamental scientific phenomena that make these processes work. Examples of prior work can be seen in Figure 1.

Diagram of the types of nano and micro 3-D printing

Figure 1. Micro and nano manufacturing processes studied in the UCMAN laboratory

Electrochemical Additive Manufacturing

One of the processes being studied is electrochemical additive manufacturing (ECAM). ECAM is a novel, emerging method of additive manufacturing that uses localized electrochemical deposition (localized metal plating) between a tool and a substrate when they are sufficiently close together in a metal plating bath. A current spike through the electrochemical circuit occurs when the tool and deposit touch, indicating that the metal deposit has grown between the tool-substrate gap enough to touch the tool. When this feedback is combined with a positioning and control system, this becomes an additive manufacturing (3d printing) process capable of depositing 3d metal parts.

Project Scope

While the ECAM process has been extensively studied at the micro size scale, the ability to shrink the resolution down to the nano or atomic level is still in progress. Control of the process at this scale requires an entirely different set of hardware capable of moving, controlling reactions, and sensing current at the nanoscale. Understanding of the process at nanoscale resolution also requires a shift in perspective. The process is no longer optically visible at the nanoscale, requiring special characterization methods to see what is printed. It is also no longer occurring in a fluid continuum, but instead may be understood and modeled as the behavior of individual molecules. The existing nanoscale experimental and computational setups are shown in Figure 2.

Diagram showing nano-scale electrochemical additive manufacturing

Figure 2. Nano-scale electrochemical additive manufacturing

Project Goals

The student may choose to assist with either the experimental or computational goals of the work.

Experimental Goals

  • Determination of the effective process conditions in which to run deposition. This involves testing behavior under different chemical, voltage, and geometrical conditions.
  • Designing a method of tool path planning to build a 3D CAD model under a given set of process conditions.
  • Evaluating the deposition behavior using in-process monitored signals and post-process imaging and characterization methods.

Computational goals

  • Writing and executing postprocessing codes that connect atomic-scale simulation to experimental data by integrating understanding of theoretical concepts and real-life behaviors of the setup.
  • Evaluating effectiveness of different modeling approaches at the quantum and classical levels.
  • Comparing performance of the experimental and simulation setups under the same set of process parameters, and evaluating what simulation can explain that experimentation alone cannot.

Final deliverables

  • Experimental proof-of-concept on student-determined CAD files
  • Documentation on the problem-solving process to generate each shape

Students will gain exposure to

  • Providing new knowledge on an emerging manufacturing technique
  • Conducting a literature review
  • Hands-on experiments with an electrochemical setup and hardware
  • Coding  algorithms
  • Problem solving
  • An excellent opportunity to exercise your initiative, creativity, critical thinking, scientific judgment, scientific knowledge, problem solving, and teamwork skills
Headshot of Murali Sundaram

Murali Sundaram

Professor, CEAS - Mechanical Eng

631 Rhodes Hall


Dr. Murali Sundaram is a Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at the College of Engineering, University of Cincinnati. He has over 25 years of professional experience that includes ten years of industrial experience in precision manufacturing and three years of postdoctoral research experience in micro and nanomanufacturing. Dr. Sundaram is a recipient of a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the National Science Foundation. His research interests include Additive Manufacturing, Nano-Manufacturing, Nontraditional Machining, Micromachining, Hybrid Machining, CAD/CAM, Metrology and Process Simulation. Dr. Sundaram is advising/ has co-advised over 25 graduate students (including 6 Ph.D. students) and several undergraduate students. He has authored five book chapters and over 100 refereed publications. Dr. Sundaram serves as Associate Editor of SME's Journal of Manufacturing Processes and is an International Editorial Review Board member of the International Journal of Manufacturing, Materials and Mechanical Engineering. Dr. Sundaram is a member of ASME and SME.