Texas Tech researchers printing safer fireworks - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

Texas Tech researchers printing safer fireworks

Engineers at Texas Tech are researching the best way to create 3D printed fireworks (source: KCBD video) Engineers at Texas Tech are researching the best way to create 3D printed fireworks (source: KCBD video)

As firework technology continues to advance, a group of researchers at Texas Tech is working to create safer fireworks that still have the 'wow' factor people want to see.

We told you about this project one year ago, and we caught up with the research team again to find out where the group is at with developing 3D printed fireworks.

"Just imagine you programming in to a 3D printer to print 1,000 of these cherry bombs, for example. And then you can step away, and the whole thing gets done for you," said Dr. Michelle Pantoya, the J.W. Wright Regents Chair and professor in the Texas Tech Department of Mechanical Engineering.

That's the end goal for Pantoya and her dedicated research assistants.

Pantoya says being able to 3D print fireworks is a much more cost-effective way to process them.

"It's a lot more efficient to prescribe shape charges in a 3D printable matrix, and produce them faster and more economical than again, physically mixing powders and trying to create a shape charge that way," Pantoya said.

It's not just about efficiency, but creating a product they can ensure will be safe.

The process is called additive manufacturing, printing a material layer by layer to create a 3D structure.

Rather than workers handling the components themselves, the printer takes care of it, in a controlled and consistent way.

"It's another safety thing. You can do everything remotely. If something bad happens, it is all contained as well," graduate student Lee Campbell said.

"The number one cause of accidents at fireworks plants is electrostatic discharge ignition, which is just like the spark from static electricity that could go and ignite powder, a powder mixture. So having the formulation in a binder protects it, and because processing using additive manufacturing requires a binder as part of the processing, then it inherently makes the whole formulation safer," Pantoya said.

The binder serves as an enclosure to protect the fireworks from sparking when they aren't supposed to.

It's research these graduate and PhD students feel proud to be a part of, as they've helped it evolve over the last year.

"It's a really exciting thing for us to be able to do because it's a whole new frontier, essentially. We don't get very many opportunities to have a whole new industrial revolution essentially. And to be able to integrate things that aren't normally thought about is a really fun thing to be involved in," Campbell said.

While these 3D printed fireworks aren't on the store shelves yet, Dr. Pantoya says the goal is to manufacture them within the next couple of years.

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