Researchers working to improve additive manufacturing for metal parts
Metal 3D printing seems to be the most advanced established form of 3D printing there is to date. Although the printing of plastics for medical devices and the promise of glass 3D printing both offer potentially revolutionary qualities, the capabilities granted by metal 3D printing are currently changing billion dollar industries at an incredibly rapid pace. Mega companies like Boeing and GE Aviation are just two out of many industry leaders investing millions in additive manufacturing for metal components and rapid prototyping.
Despite the heavy investment in metal 3D printing, the technology is still new enough so that methods to ensure superior quality and complex printing free of errors have still not been fully developed. As the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering puts it, “developing complex geometries with fewer errors and distortions, as well as quality standards to test the manufactured items, have not kept pace with the technology.”
To combat the problems presented by this underdevelopment, engineers at the Swanson School have been awarded two major grants that will fund research into the advancement of qualification standards and efficient complex modeling for additive manufacturing in metal. To develop standard qualification methods for additive manufacturing, the National Science Foundation’s Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) awarded the researchers $300,000 in a three-year grant. To address challenges in correct modeling and simulation for complex parts, America Makes and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development partnered to grant $150,000 in research funding. The engineers hope the research will lead to enhanced technology, new qualification standards and increased industry adoption of additive manufacturing.
“Additive manufacturing continues to demonstrate its ability to manufacture very complex lattice structures and geometries, enabling us to build complex structures that would be difficult to replicate using traditional or “subtractive” manufacturing,” said principal researcher Dr. Albert To. “However, these increasingly complex parts are very time-consuming to model and therefore more prone to errors. The grant will enable us to develop computer codes that first will automate the finite element simulation of certain AM process and material. By improving the modeling of these complex, sometimes microscopic structures, we can design the process path and/or part geometry to reduce residual stress that causes failure to the part during manufacturing.”
He continued: “Additive manufacturing is poised to revolutionize the production of complex and distinctive parts and machines, but like its predecessor it requires the qualification methods necessary to ensure viability, safety and integrity. We are quite literally building the foundation for a 21st century manufacturing revolution.”
Shanie Phillips is a originally from the UK, but has spent many years in Singapore, the US and now Israel. In addition to writing for Inside3DP she writes for several news and innovation sites.