Meet the Team with Director of Materials Innovation Jason Walker
The next ‘Meet the Team’ Q&A article features Jason Walker, PhD, an advanced manufacturing expert who joined in March 2022 as the Director of Materials Innovation at the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME).
Jason graduated with bachelor’s degrees from Case Western Reserve University in aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering. He subsequently earned his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering at the University of Toledo. It was during this time that he first became involved with metal additive manufacturing – a research theme that continues to define his work. After completing his PhD, Jason conducted postdoctoral studies at The Ohio State University in the Department of Plastic Surgery. His postdoc research was focused on bone tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, with emphasis on patient-driven design, biomechanical modeling, additive manufacturing and bioreactor technologies for manufacturing tissue-engineered craniofacial implants.
Following his postdoc, he served as an assistant professor of manufacturing engineering at Youngstown State University where he taught a variety of courses, mentored graduate students and conducted research in advanced manufacturing. Immediately prior to joining CDME, Jason worked as a principal engineer at an orthopedic biomed startup company focused on developing next-generation materials for total joint replacement devices.
Now, Jason is using both his industry and academic expertise at CDME to contribute to the mission of building a sustainable talent pipeline, while working with industry partners to develop market-ready manufactured products.
CDME: Tell us about your background.
Jason Walker: I’m passionate about studying materials and/or processes in the context of developing or improving advanced manufacturing techniques. A significant portion of my research has involved additive manufacturing, metal casting or both. I’ve worked on metal, polymer, ceramic and composite material systems. A common theme has been finding applications in biomedical and aerospace fields, although not exclusively. There's a lot of overlap in those industries in terms of the materials that are used, regulatory requirements and need for highly engineered materials and components.
CDME: What attracted you to return to academia?
Walker: What drew me back to academia in general, and to CDME, is the diversity of projects and problems that we're working on. We have collaborators all over the country, if not all over the world. You constantly meet new people who have different interests and expertise that are kind of all tied together by advanced manufacturing. That's very interesting and appealing to me.
CDME: What about CDME drew you in?
Walker: It was the unique model of CDME to drive innovation and advance the manufacturing competitiveness of the US, and to do it with a primarily undergraduate workforce. It’s a combination of the incredible research facilities combined with the number and quality of students who are involved with the center and the community. I really love being able to work with and mentor students while working on cutting edge projects. My undergraduate research experience was extremely transformative for me as a student and as a person, and I feel fortunate now to be able to support undergraduate researchers at CDME.
CDME: What’s a project that you’re enjoying working on at CDME?
Walker: There are too many to mention. We have great projects in our polymer processing cell focused on injection molding of plastics with biofillers, multiple projects studying the solidification cracking behavior of metals, a continuous list of design-and-build projects for the Columbus Zoo that are extremely fun and many others.
In particular, we have an ongoing project with Honda on developing low-cost, rapidly produced, agile tooling for sheet metal stampings. Basically, we’re 3D printing die sets to be used in sheet metal forming and we've seen some really good results. Using additive manufacturing in tooling applications for other manufacturing processes like this is particularly interesting to me.
We are also super excited to get the foundry fully up and running at CDME. Some of the foundry pieces have been here for years and others have recently been moved over. Metal casting is something that I really fell in love with over the past handful of years. We have induction furnaces for melting ferrous and non-ferrous alloys, an industrial die casting machine and vacuum melting capabilities. I’m happy to say that we recently cast aluminum, steel and Inconel parts.
CDME: Can you offer any advice to students who are looking to enter the field?
Walker: Yes, work at CDME! Seriously, I would say get involved. Any student who wants to be working hands-on in an engineering environment should be looking for internships, co-ops and research positions that allow them to work on different types of projects with different types of materials and processes.
CDME: What do you fill your time with outside of work?
Walker: Trying to stay active fills a lot of my time. My wife, Emily, and I play tennis, pickleball, golf, run and other things like that. We also enjoy hiking and getting out into nature together. I enjoy cooking as well, and I like to practice woodworking – I’ve made a few benches, tables and a canoe paddle – even though we don't have a canoe… maybe that’s next!
By Annie Waugh, CDME Marketing and Communications Student Assistant