Jan 14, 2016 | By Kira

Researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have launched a strategic project known as the Accelerated Certification of Additively Manufactured Metals Initiative (ACAMM), which seeks to improve metal 3D printing and encourage its widespread adoption across various industries. The research-based approach will use a combination of physics models, data-mining technologies and uncertainty analyses to optimize 3D printed metal parts and speed up the certification process, ultimately helping metal 3D printing technology reach its full potential once and for all.

Lawrence Livermore Labs researchers examine a metal 3D printed part

Four years ago, Woehlers’ influential report on additive manufacturing stated that some metal 3D printed parts were already on par with their cast or wrought counterparts, and that “additive manufacturing is poised to become the most important, the most strategic, and the most used manufacturing technology ever.”

Indeed, metal 3D printing has quickly progressed from a rapid prototyping tool to a legitimate production technology—but only in some sectors, and only for certain, high profile industrial manufacturers. Why hasn’t metal 3D printing achieved the disruptive levels we’ve been waiting for?

According to Livermore Labs researchers, this is firstly because we lack a fundamental understanding of the key physics behind complicated metal additive manufacturing techniques such as SLM (selective laser melting); and secondly, because of the long certification times required to approve 3D printed metal materials.

Thus, the ACAMM initiative has two main objectives: first, to develop process modeling and process optimization simulation and modeling capabilities; and second, to put in place a streamlined materials certification strategy to provide near-net-shape metal parts certified for use in critical applications at a significantly reduced cost.

“If we want to put parts into critical applications, they have to meet quality criteria. Our project is focused on developing a science-based understanding of the additive manufacturing process to build confidence in the quality of parts,” said Wayne King, Director of ACAMM. “We want to accelerate certification and qualification to take advantage of the flexibility that metal additive manufacturing gives us. Ideally, our plants would like to build a part on Monday that can be qualified and on the same machine on Tuesday build a different part that can also be qualified.”

King and his team have prepared various physics-based models for the SLM process on scales varying from the particulate powder to the whole part or component. These models can be used to better understand how every possible factor in the metal 3D printing process, including laser power, speed, beam size, and shape affect different types of metals.

This information can in turn provide valuable insights for developing new materials, improving predictions of deformation and stresses during 3D printing that could lead to part failure, eliminating guesswork, and overall improving metal 3D printing processes and optimizing the finished metal parts—all without the need for multiple, costly experiments.

ACAMM's Powder Model 

“These models will be a big step forward toward getting away from the experience base and getting the science base behind it,” said King. “We’re talking about getting to the place of saying ‘just press print’ for metal. It could broadly impact the way people apply metal additive manufacturing.”

We have recently seen a few promising approaches to improving metal 3D printing powders and metal 3D printing processes. These include Northwestern’s new method for 3D printing with metal powders and even rust, that delivers more architecturally complex and uniform structures than previously possible. Over on the 3D printing materials side, Equispheres has developed an atomizer technology to reduce the inconsistencies and defects in volume-produced metal powders.

From the Livermore researchers’ point of view however, the only possible way to move forward in improving the consistency and reliability of end-use metal 3D printed parts—and to ensure that the aerospace, healthcare, and other high-demand industries can have confidence in using them—is to take this more knowledge-based approach.

The ACAMM’s proposed physics-based models were recently published in an academic paper for the January edition of Applied Physics Reviews. The three-year study is being funded by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) Program at LLNL. In addition to King, other Livermore Labs researchers contributing to the project include Ibo Matthews, Gabe Guss, Niel Hodge, Chandrika Kamath, Saad Khairallah and Alexander Rubenchik.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Technology

 

 

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