Jan 18, 2016 | By Alec

When reading about new and exciting filaments, a lot is often said about the material properties of those plastics – but those characteristics are often very difficult to study. Fortunately, a new innovative technique by scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (part of the US Department of Energy) could shed a lot more light on these characteristics. They have adopted infrared cameras to study 3D printed parts and further their understanding of how processing conditions affect the strength, residual stresses and microstructures of these 3D printed objects.

As the scientists explain, this technique is building on decades of experience in using infrared cameras to study promising technological developments. Back in 1995, they were the first non-military organization in the US to adopt a high-speed infrared camera, back then for the Continuous Fiber Ceramic Composite program. At the time, it greatly helped them develop new lightweight and tough ceramic composites by better understanding how heat is conducted. The hope is that this new program will do the same for 3D printing, although they are using at least 10 new high speed infrared cameras for their latest project. Studying a variety of 3D printed materials, they are especially focused on mapping temperature changes.

Much of their current work will also be building on their previous successes with infrared studies, which shows the added value of that approach. “At first we just planned to use this camera to measure thermal diffusivity maps of composites,” said Ralph Dinwiddie, who worked on the ceramic composites two decades ago. “This would allow us to measure the constituent properties and to study how they changed due to the processing conditions.” This thermographic approach became a new way to study composites. “Information on the constituent properties after processing allows better modeling of future composites,” Dinwiddie added.

The team used the camera to detect flaws beneath a material’s surface, effectively enabling them to study materials without destroying samples. It could reveal hidden corrosion, manufacturing faults, or even incomplete merging of layers in a 3D printed sample. Back in the 1990s, this same technique led to the optimization of gas turbines for power generation, and over the years the same imaging techniques were used to accelerate engineering studies. “Working with Ford Scientific Research Labs, we demonstrated the ability to strobe the IR camera to freeze the motion of brake discs during dynamometer testing, allowing us to produce temperature maps showing how hot spots developed and moved during braking,” Dinwiddie said of one project. “This combination of property mapping, temperature mapping, nondestructive testing, microscopic temperature measurement and process monitoring greatly expanded the demand for thermography services into a diverse array of applications.”

The expectations for this study of 3D printable materials is thus high, though we’ll have to wait and see if the results are as revolutionary as before. It will, at least, further industry understanding of how materials respond when 3D printed, which will greatly benefit the technology’s adoption speed.



Posted in 3D Printing Materials



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