Meet Athena: Michigan Tech's Latest Manufacturing Marvel
A new, personal manufacturing robot named Athena is expanding the scope of what 3-D technology can do and leading the launch of a new Upper Peninsula- based business.
Michigan Tech research scientist and alumnus Jerry Anzalone and Michigan Tech Materials Science and Engineering PhD candidate Bas Wijnen have teamed up with Calumet High School tech and trades instructor Mark Bonenfant to form Phidias, LLC. Athena is the face of the company, which develops and sells open-source hardware and software.
Open Source Manufacturing
The design was developed through research on open-source manufacturing conducted at Michigan Tech, where researchers, educators and students led by Joshua Pearce, associate professor of materials science and engineering and electrical and computer engineering, continue to actively develop and distribute open-source projects across campus and into the free market.
Pearce was instrumental in pulling Bonenfant into the initiative. “As an educator I was more than interested when several years back Joshua and Jerry were looking for a volunteer teacher to explore the opportunity to put affordable open-source printers in the classroom,” Bonenfant explains. “At Calumet we are continually looking for ways our students can get involved in STEM curriculums.”
Athena Can Multi-Task
The more advanced robot commercialized by Phidias and recently featured in TechCentury and BusinessWire, has a multitude of manufacturing tasks in its repertoire in addition to printing 3-D plastics. It can mill print circuit boards and other soft materials. It can print with pastes, including sealants and food-based materials. It accurately cuts vinyl and other pliable materials. And it can pen-plot complex vector graphics.
One of Athena’s most innovative qualities is the ability to handle heavy as well as light tools, something beyond the capacity of typical 3-D printers. Kits begin at $600.
Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, the University offers more than 125 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.