The Development of DIGI-Net at the Pennsylvania State University to Support Interdisciplinary Innovation

Open Access
McGinley, Mark John
Area of Honors:
Interdisciplinary in Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Engineering
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Timothy William Simpson, Thesis Supervisor
  • Paul Griffin, Honors Advisor
  • James Gordon Brasseur, Honors Advisor
  • innovation
  • digital fabrication
  • manufacturing
  • interdisciplinary
Digital fabrication tools, devices that can be used to transform a conceptual model into a physical one or vice versa, are frequently used for design purposes. Additive, subtractive, and input-driven processes constitute the gamut of possibilities within digital fabrication, and are explained in detail in this thesis. As a large research institution, Penn State has invested in many different types of digital fabrication resources, which are spread among a number of different academic colleges and departments. The Digital Inquiry and Group Innovation Network, better known as DIGI-Net, seeks to enhance design processes for the Penn State community. This thesis describes the development of a website with a browsable database comprising all of the available digital fabrication equipment on campus, video and text training tutorials, conveniently-located kiosks, and easily identified graphic icons as the main components of DIGI-Net. The objectives of DIGI-Net are to enrich the resources available to the Penn State community at the confluence of design, technology, and academic inquiry. Specifically, DIGI-Net seeks to find and describe Penn State’s digital manufacturing resources, collate these in a searchable database catalogued by machine characteristics, and create process descriptions, matching icons, training videos, text worksheets describing proper machine operation, interactive kiosks, and a print brochure that documents digital fabrication locations and interdisciplinary projects that have used these fabrication resources. The goal of DIGI-Net is to democratize digital fabrication and make it easier for people to access, learn about, and use Penn State’s resources. Prototypes of these services were presented at the spring Design Showcase. The objectives in the research are to identify a number of possible improvements in communication and temporal strategies in order to maintain funding to ensure that DIGI-Net can exist in perpetuity. Future work to maintain innovation in DIGI-Net and measure its success within the community are also discussed. So far, DIGI-Net has contributed significantly to its objectives. All digital manufacturing tools, located in ten different buildings have been identified and collated in the database. An effective classification scheme dividing resources into additive, subtractive, or input-based has been implemented. Process descriptions have been created to accompany all of the digital fabrication tools, and process icons have been developed for 19 different processes. Video and text tutorials have been created for the powder based printers, laser cutters, CNC router, and water jet cutter. A website searchable by process, machine type, and facility has been created. A kiosk with a touch screen that runs all of DIGI-Net’s digital content has been fabricated. Finally, a print brochure summarizing six different interdisciplinary projects utilizing digital fabrication tools and Penn State’s resources was printed for distribution. Based on the findings, DIGI-Net has succeeded in creating prototypes of its future services, and there are a number of different improvements to make to the communication lines in place within DIGI-Net’s organizational structure that may improve future work.