Sundar Atre

Endowed Chair, Manufacturing and Materials

“Everyone aspires to be able to do something beyond themselves,” to Sundar Atre’s way of thinking.

And when people approach from different backgrounds and bring their collective strengths to connect and work on solutions to problems, that success can happen.

Atre, mechanical engineering professor and endowed chair of manufacturing and materials at UofL’s Speed School of Engineering, particularly likes it when those solution-seeking groups of people include students.

“It’s very exciting to see another generation that is looking to push that team farther ahead,” he said. “How can I help them along?”

And although the world puts such emphasis on striving for success, the path to it might include roadblocks and some failure. “It’s OK to fail…It’s in trying to extend beyond your reach. It doesn’t mean you slack off. Look at things differently and try harder,” Atre said.

The quest for modern answers in industry can mean entirely new materials or processes – and teams that bring varied perspectives to the table to create them.

Atre is heading up a UofL effort to establish a new interdisciplinary program in digital manufacturing and design.

And he is leading a five-year, $2 million grant to help minority-owned manufacturing businesses adopt additive manufacturing and 3D printing technologies. The funding is from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) to launch a Kentucky MBDA Advanced Manufacturing Center, one of only four nationwide.

The effort to broaden that reach builds on the work of UofL’s Additive Manufacturing Institute of Science and Technology, which uses its faculty, staff and student partners and 10,000 square feet of facilities to help businesses tap into 3D printing and additive tech capabilities.

“Individual success contributes to team success. It’s not an either-or situation; you can get what you want. There’s so much to be done that (to approach problems) from slightly different perspectives, they will help you push yourself farther,” he said.”

For any new product, there are the basic aspects to examine – “how you make it, what you make it out of and how does it look?” Atre said. Digital manufacturing can help identify and fix the gaps in how an item is produced, and digital technology can address the search for solutions more efficiently and perhaps more reliably.

“What our students will get a chance to work on …. It can change the way things get done.”

They may explore how digital manufacturing might solve problems in issues of clean energy, better transportation, space exploration, health care delivery, even better cybersecurity.

“Digital manufacturing and design research is pushing the boundaries, here and beyond,” Atre said.