Oct 23, 2016 | By Tess

As 3D printing technologies advance they become increasingly viable for applications within various industries, from healthcare, to aerospace, to transportation, and defense. Fortunately, there are a number of research labs, companies, and organizations who are working on this front, continually developing and improving additive manufacturing processes. Recently, for instance, researchers from the United States’ Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory announced that they were exploring the use of 3D printing for the production of “on-demand” targets for the testing of different material behaviors.

The research, led by one Juergen Biener, while still in its testing phase, has already shown how 3D printing can improve and speed up target production. So far, the LLNL team has even successfully created the first “millimeter-sized, low-density foam reservoir targets with nanoscale features for material strength tests using an additive manufacturing process, specifically two-photon polymerization direct laser writing (2PP DLW). The foam reservoirs were made at the OMEGA laser facility in Rochester, NY.

The primary advantage of 3D printing the foam targets for target production has been the time factor. That is, using traditional manufacturing methods, the foam target components could take up to several weeks to make, while with 3D printing processes, the researchers have been able to fabricate them within mere hours.

 As Biener explained, "When something in target fabrication goes wrong, it could take us two months to replace it. Now we can do it the next day or even overnight. The advantage is a shortcut in the time it takes to develop a new target component from conception to delivery. It opens the door to making things you couldn't make before using traditional manufacturing."

In addition to speeding up the fabrication process, 3D printing has allowed a closer degree of control for the material properties of the targets, including their density, elasticity, and brittleness.    In line with this, 2PP DLW could also be used to manufacture “material libraries” consisting of hundreds of variable materials for “high throughout shotgun experiments”. These material strength tests, conducted at facilities such as OMEGA or the National Ignition Facility (NIF), are employed for the validation of existing computer models through material behavior under extreme conditions.

“It's easier to control what you're testing, and you don't have to do any machining after. Being able to write something in the final shape you want is a real advantage, especially since many of the materials cannot be machined,” added Michael Stadermann, LLNL Targets S&T group leader. As he continues to explain, 3D printing processes could offer the researchers a significant cost advantage as well, which in turn would lead to the development of even faster, cheaper, and even more precise fabrication methods. For now, one of the hurdles being faced by the researchers is the fact that they are limited in terms of what can be printed, what materials can be used as inks.

The research project is being funded by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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