Young alum helps shape measurement standards in manufacturing

NIU alumnus Justin Whiting is helping to shape the future of additive manufacturing, working for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop and evaluate measurement science in this new and booming field.

In August, Whiting presented at a national conference for modeling powder dynamics in metal additive manufacturing.

“Powders can be very complex materials. While a particle may be rather straightforward to analyze, the interaction between millions of particles is another animal,” he said. “Changes in static charging, moisture and particle size distribution all alter how the powder behaves as a bulk material.”

There are limited methods for characterizing metal powders, particularly how they flow in an additive manufacturing machine, making the design and development of new techniques especially challenging.

Whiting originally came to NIU to study engineering, drawn to the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology’s “unique mix of academic reputation and affordability,” he said. He changed his major to marketing and graduated from the College of Business in 2010, then came back to complete both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in mechanical engineering. He said the combination of engineering and marketing helps him to take a holistic approach to his work.

“It has provided me with a unique point of view, taking an engineering approach to every project while keeping in mind the driving factor – often a customer – of every project,” he said.

Like many engineers, from an early age, Whiting was eager to understand how things work. That curiosity led to learning to build electromechanical systems from the ground up.

“Whether they were for increasing the strength and speed of a walking robot or being able to monitor the flow rate of metal powder being carried by an inert gas, I found a passion in creating with the goal of solving problems,” he said.

At NIU, he said his fervor for the field grew under the influence of faculty like Federico Sciammarella, Brianno Coller, Nicholas Pohlman and Behrooz Fallahi, who asked challenging questions that pushed him to learn more.

Today, Whiting is based in Maryland and working in additive manufacturing, a field so new that it still lacks uniform standards across technologies.

“Without agreed-upon standard measurement techniques one laboratory’s results cannot be directly compared to another,” he said. “Industrial users lacking a standard are often forced to create their own tailored guidelines for acceptance. This disjointedness is not optimal, and is something NIST is constantly striving to alleviate.”

Moving forward, Whiting hopes to continue to pursue additive manufacturing material characterization.

He also hopes Thai Pavilion, a downtown DeKalb staple, one day opens a location in Maryland.

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