Jun 12, 2018 | By Thomas

Sandia National Laboratories has designed an automated 3D printed part testing robot. Called Alinstante, Spanish for "in an instant," the system is a six-sided work cell, similar to a circular desk, with a commercial robot at its center that conducts high-throughput testing to quickly determine the performance and properties of 3D printed part.

Sandia National Laboratories materials scientist Brad Boyce watches as the Alinstante robotic work cell scans a 3D-printed part to compare what was made to the original design. Credit: Randy Montoya

The technology was the result of Sandia materials scientist Brad Boyce's challenge in the spring of 2015. Boyce was working on a Laboratory Directed Research and Development-funded project to improve the qualification of custom 3D-printed parts.

Alinstante is a flexible, modular and scalable system. The commercial robot sits in the center of the hexagonal work cell with up to six "petal" work stations around it. Each work station can have a different commercial or custom testing systems, and the work stations can be swapped in and out depending on the kind of tests needed. Also, because of the hexagonal shape, multiple petals can be combined in a honeycomb-like structure. That allows handoffs from petal to petal to provide almost limitless testing scalability. In addition, the team also installed safety light curtains wherever a person and the robot might interact.

By the end of the summer, the team hopes to have a user interface that will allow a non-expert to place their parts on a tray in the parts rack, select a few tests and get their data automatically.

The prototype Alinstante work cell only has two testing stations and a rack where users can place their parts. The first station is an off-the-shelf structured light scanner that can convert a scan into a 3D model for direct quantitative comparison to the original intended design. The second station is a load frame for testing physical properties, such as tensile and compression testing, which is pushing on an object until it crunches.

Next, the team wants to add a laser-induced breakdown spectrometer to Alinstante, according to Tim Blada, the roboticist who is leading the design of the software interface. This test would be particularly useful for determining the batch-to-batch consistency in the chemical composition of parts in a minimally destructive manner.

"Right now, Alinstante is really just scratching the surface of what it could be," said Boyce. "We could integrate the 3D printer, processing systems -- such as a heat-treat oven or a grinder -- and many other post-processing tests."

The Alinstante team is looking for partners to support the development of new modules.

Boyce explains the idea, "Friday afternoon you tell the 3D printer 'I want you to print this part 10 different ways and then go test each one.' You come to come back Monday morning and Alinstante tells you which process was the best. Let the robot do all the logistics work and get the human out of the loop except for making the important engineering decisions."

Blada adds, "In theory you could run this thing forever, if you had enough parts," he said.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



Maybe you also like:


Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to

3ders.org Feeds 3ders.org twitter 3ders.org facebook   

About 3Ders.org

3Ders.org provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive