Jan 4, 2018 | By Tess

As the risks of 3D printing and compromised prints are becoming more and more apparent, preventative methods and solutions to ensuring the quality of parts are in high demand. Fortunately, there are innovative individuals and teams that are up to the task and we’ve seen some pretty intriguing 3D printing safety options put forwards in recent years.

One such project is being developed by Jeremy Straub, an assistant professor of computer science at North Dakota State University in Fargo, and his teammates Benjamin Kading and Scott Kerlin.

Their 3D printing assurance system is known as an “imaging-based 3D printing quality control system” and was recently awarded a patent under the title “Characterizing 3D Printed Objects for 3D Printing.”

In simple terms, the system, which we first wrote about in 2016, consists of imaging technology that takes photos of a 3D printed part at various stages of its production. The photos of the 3D printed part while it is being built up layer-by-layer enable makers to check the part’s internal structure to ensure that there are no cracks, breaks, or other flaws in the print.

As simple as it sounds, Straub and his team say the imaging system could help makers certify that their 3D prints match the 3D models they are based on and have not been compromised through either hardware glitches or, more nefariously, deliberate sabotage.

Of course, users are not expected to go through the many images captured of their 3D print, as the system integrates a comparison tool which identifies and flags any potential flaws.

Straub explains that the idea for the imaging system was born out of frustration with his own failed prints while working at NDSU.

“We had a number of printers, and we would try to print stuff overnight, or print stuff and leave it, and we would come back and find a mess,” he said. “After that happened a few times, we were like ‘OK. you know, one, we need to figure out why the printer’s doing this.’”

While the 3D print errors were being ultimately being caused by a simple hardware problem, Straub was still inspired to develop a solution to identifying prints with internal discrepancies to help other makers.

Importantly, the imaging technology could be an accessible solution for those seeking to ensure that their 3D prints haven’t been hacked or compromised by an external party, which is a growing concern in the industry.

That being said, it is unlikely that the imaging technology will be suitable for such industrial 3D printing applications in sectors such as healthcare or aerospace, which require highly stringent qualification steps. But it could have applications for smaller companies, professional designers, researchers, and even individual makers.

“It’s not just researchers that are using 3D printing anymore,” Straub explained. “Now children, store clerks, senior citizens and lots of other people who aren’t printing experts are making objects. It’s critical that printers have built-in capabilities to ensure that those objects are safe and won’t break or injure people.”

Currently, Straub says he has a functional prototype of his innovative imaging system and is discussing the potential of commercializing and licensing the technology with a number of companies.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Technology

 

 

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