James Brackett wants to develop new technology and materials for 3D printing. He focuses on thermoplastic composites, plastics filled with another material such as carbon fiber.
Brackett, who is pursuing a doctorate through the University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute Bredesen Center’s Energy Science and Engineering program at, has been nominated for this year’s Jimmy and Ileen Cheek Graduate Student Medal of Excellence.
“Historically, there have been issues with changing or using more than one material during a print,” Brackett said, explaining that he’s working on a screw-based extrusion system similar to injection molding equipment to melt and convert small plastic pellets of a given material into a single “bead” that is deposited on a stable surface one layer at a time to produce a final part.
“By alternating which material we put into that system, we are able to use the rotating screw to blend the two melted materials together and switch materials as desired,” he said. “In essence, we avoid creating weak seams between the different materials while still offering the improved usefulness of multi-material printing. Eventually, this research and other projects like it will lead to machines that can seamlessly place different materials wherever the designer or company thinks it will be needed.”
Brackett, of Maryville, earned his bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering at UT.
“While there were other college options, the connections between UT and ORNL persuaded me that staying close to home provided ample opportunities. Choosing a graduate school was much the same decision,” he said.
“UT-ORII has been instrumental in providing access to state-of-the-art facilities,” he said. “And I have been fortunate to learn about research projects outside my own field, which has helped provide a more well-rounded graduate experience and, in some cases, led to new perspectives that aided my own work.”
In his spare time, Brackett enjoys watching sports, reading, playing video games, and spending time with his family and long-term girlfriend, Megan.