Dec 13, 2016 | By Tess

NASA’s Space Technology Research Grants Program recently awarded grants to a number of university-led “Early Stage Innovations” (ESI) project proposals. Among those given grants were simulation software company ANSYS, Inc., a team of additive manufacturing researchers from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, and several more. The research team from Pitt was awarded $500,000 for three years to move forward their additive manufacturing research and development.

Laser interacting with Inconel powder inside an EOS DMLS M290 3D printer

at ANSYS Additive Manufacturing Research Lab

The team’s proposal, called “Prediction of Microstructure Evolution in DMLM (Direct Material Laser Melting) process Inconel 718 with Part Scale Simulation”, was funded through the ESI’s Modeling and Simulation-Based Certification of Additive Manufacturing Processing Parameters category. If that sounds like a mouthful, it essentially means that the team’s research project revolves around developing a simulation process for 3D printed metal parts.

More specifically, the research team is hoping to develop a simulation method for metal 3D printing so that structural elements of 3D printed parts used for high-temperature applications, like for jet engines, can be virtually visualized, and elements like creep and strength can be determined before printing. The research is being headed by Albert To, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and director of the ANSYS Additive Manufacturing Research Laboratory, as well as Wei Xiong, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science.

David Conover, chief technologist for mechanical products at ANSYS and the project’s co-investigator, explained of the research: “Currently, the only way to certify an AM part for space missions is to perform extensive microstructure and property characterization experiments on it, which is both time-consuming and expensive. The outcome of this research will potentially enable simulation-based certification of both AM parts and substantially lower the expense of certification.”

NASA, which is understandably very interested in the ability to simulate and determine the properties of 3D printed metal parts, is hoping to help accelerate and advance the Pitt team’s research project. The overall goal of the Space Technology Research Grants program is to push forward technologies for space that are in their early stages so they can eventually be implemented by NASA, government agencies, and the commercial space sector.

"NASA's Early Stage Innovations grants provide U.S. universities the opportunity to conduct research and technology development to advance NASA's scientific discovery and exploration goals," commented Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. "Partnering with academia in advancing these critical areas of research ensures we are engaging the best and brightest minds in enabling the agency's future robotic and human space flight missions."

As mentioned, the Pitt-based research project for developing simulation technology for crucial metal 3D printed parts will receive $500,000 in funding over the next three years. The Space Technology Research Grants program, which allotted the award, was itself funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, a branch of NASA charged with developing state-of-the-art and boundary pushing technologies.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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