Aug 17, 2016 | By Tess

A team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and from Pittsburgh-based motion-control manufacturer Aerotech has recently been awarded a grant of $350,000 to pursue their research and development of fast computational modeling systems for metal 3D printing. The grant was awarded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

As metal 3D printing advances and becomes a viable manufacturing solution for a growing number of industries, such as the aerospace, automotive, and medical sectors, certain obstacles and challenges must still be faced. Among them are the issues of distortions and stresses which can oftentimes arise when 3D printing complex geometries. Fortunately, the team of researchers from PITT is setting out to tackle these issues and further advance additive manufacturing.

A failed, fractured print due to stress buildup

The PITT research team, led by Associate Professor Albert To, was awarded the $350,000 GOALI (Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry) for the proposal “Novel Computational Approaches to Address Key Design Optimization Issues for Metal Additive Manufacturing.” The project, which will be funded for at least three-years with the GOALI grant, is also being realized in partnership with Aerotech Inc. which will provide designs and evaluation throughout the research process. According to a press release, the project is an extension of previous research funded by the Research for Advanced Manfuacturing in Pennsylvania (RAMP) program.

As Dr. To explains of the research project: “The ability to create geometrically complex shapes through additive manufacturing is both a tremendous benefit and a significant challenge. Optimizing the design to compensate for residual distortion, residual stress, and post-machining requirements can take days or even months for these parts.”​

In response to these 3D printing hurdles, the PITT research team led by Dr. To is working on developing a both simple and accurate thermomechanics model which will help to predict residual stress and distortion in 3D printed metal parts. Once that phase of the research is complete, the engineers will then work on devising a topology optimization system that will be capable of generating 3D designs with both free-form and machining-friendly surfaces. This will allow for 3D printed parts to be designed with the distortion and residual stress taken into account and will “compensate for the geometric complexity and organic nature of AM parts.”

As mentioned, the testing of both systems will be done in partnership with Aerotech, who will apply the researched methods to additively manufactured parts within certain design requirements. The ultimate goal of the research project is to make metal 3D printing as accurate as possible by eliminating distortion and other imperfections at the modeling level.

“The tools developed through this collaboration will allow us to produce the complex parts enabled by additive manufacturing with a minimum of trial-and-error and rework,” explained Stephen Ludwick from Aerotech. “This in turn allows us to design stiff and lightweight components in our high-speed motion systems which are also used by other companies engaged in advanced manufacturing.”

Dr. To added, “By utilizing advanced mechanic theory, we hope to reduce design optimization of additive manufactured parts to minutes, thereby reducing the time of design life cycle. This would lead to wider adoption of AM by the U.S. manufacturing base and further improve the economic sustainability of the additive manufacturing process.” Indeed, as 3D printing technologies become more precise and more advanced, they become increasingly viable for manufacturing throughout a number of industries.

Another team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh also recently received a grant of $503,000 from the NSF to pursue research on the solidification process of aluminum alloys for 3D printing.



Posted in 3D Software



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