Dec 19, 2015 | By Tess

The Colorado School of Mines, a high ranked American university specializing in engineering and applied sciences, has recently received a $2.5 million grant to further develop and refine the process of heavy metal additive manufacturing.

The grant, which was funded by the Colorado Office of Economic Development, was part of a larger program, in which $4.35 million were awarded to various initiatives to promote Colorado’s advanced industries. The $2.5 million awarded to the Golden, Colorado based School of Mines will be used to set up a new lab filled with equipment to test and analyze 3D printed metal parts.

As we know, advanced 3D printing technologies are already capable of additively manufacturing metal parts, which are being used to make jet engines and other complex machinery. As the technology stands right now, however, the 3D printed metal parts often remain heavier than the same parts made by casting processes, which for certain fields, such as space travel, can be a big problem.

As Douglas Van Bossuyt, Mines professor in mechanical engineering, points out, “Every pound of stuff going into space is $10,000, so shaving weight shaves money. But with things that are 3D printed, they’re not as well understood, so the factor of safety is much higher.”

Another current setback of 3D printing metal is that the process often includes several faulty runs before a piece is successfully manufactured, which is of course a time consuming and expensive process.

Professor Douglas Van Bossuyt​

The lab and the new equipment purchased with the grant money will be for researchers at Mines to work towards fixing these issues. Essentially, the new facilities will allow them to study and test 3D printed metal prototypes in order to find the most effective way, both weight-wise and quality-wise, to additively manufacture metal parts. Ultimately, all the data obtained through the research will be put towards finding the optimal 3D print settings for metal manufacturing that can be used by other labs and companies.

“It will help us to intelligently understand what knobs to adjust to get the printed characteristics that we want,” explains Van Bossuyt. “Companies that are working with the centre can make sure that their 3D printers are calibrated correctly.”

The $2.5 million grant is set to fund the research lab’s startup costs and its first year of operation, which will focus on optimizing and understanding nickel and titanium 3D printed parts. After the first year, the funding will come from the lab’s consortium membership fees. That is, the lab will function as a sort of consortium where interested companies can pay to have the researchers focus on a certain area of study and development that benefits them. According to Van Bossuyt, Mines has already been approached by interested parties, which include departments of the United States military as well as various international bodies.

The first consortium members, which include aerospace companies Lockheed Martin, Ball Aerospace, Faustian Tool, and Manufacturer’s Edge, have already contributed an additional $4.5 million to the $2.5 million awarded by the initial grant.

The new lab will be located in the new CoorsTek Centre for Applied Sciences and Engineering, which will begin to be built at Mines in early 2016. For the 3D printing industry, a new lab being based at the Colorado School of Mines is exciting news, as many of the biggest breakthroughs and advancements in additive manufacturing technologies have come out of university research labs, where some of the world’s most dedicated and resourceful minds exist.

CoorsTek Centre for Applied Sciences and Engineering

 

 

Posted in 3D Printer Company

 

 

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