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NIST awards $7.4M in grants for additive manufacturing research

The US Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is awarding grants totaling $7.4 million to fund two research projects aimed at improving measurement and standards for the rapidly developing field of additive manufacturing (AM).

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is a group of new technologies that build up objects, usually by laying down many thin layers on top of each other. In contrast, traditional machining creates objects by cutting material away. Additive manufacturing processes face a variety of hurdles that limit their utility for high-value products and applications.

Technical challenges include inadequate data on the properties of materials used, limited process control, lack of standardized tests for qualifying machine performance and limited modeling and design tools. The new projects aim to address those challenges.

NIST is awarding $5 million to the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) in Youngstown, Ohio, which is operated by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining, for a three-phase collaborative research effort involving 27 companies, universities and national laboratories.

NIST is also awarding $2.4 million to Northern Illinois University (NIU) in DeKalb, Ill.,to develop tools for process control and qualifying parts made with layer-by-layer additive-manufacturing processes.

NAAMII: Holistic Approach to Solving Measurement Science Challenges in Additive Manufacturing. Partnering with NAMII on this NIST-funded project are Edison Welding Institute; Concurrent Technologies Corp.; University of Louisville, and 23 others. The emphasis of the three-part research plan is on providing tools needed for additive manufacturing applications to progress from prototype to market-ready.

  • Edison Welding Institute (EWI) will lead collaborative efforts to develop in-process sensing and monitoring capabilities so that tolerances and other quality requirements are consistently achieved. EWI and its NAMII partners will focus on an additive manufacturing technology known as laser-powder bed fusion, with the goal of optimizing the structure and properties of metal powders as they are fused into parts.

  • Concurrent Technologies Corp. and its NAMII partners will develop and validate nondestructive evaluation techniques for post-manufacturing inspection. Such techniques are necessary to satisfy customers that their requirements have been met with the still-emerging manufacturing technology. This is especially true for customers with orders for complex high-value-added parts, a sweet spot for additive manufacturing.

  • A team led by the University of Louisville will develop and refine a “layerwise certification standard” for additive manufacturing. Building on the two other projects, this effort would yield a high-definition record of each part as it is produced in the layer-by-layer manner that is characteristic of additive manufacturing. The ultimate goal is to produce a “3D Quality Certificate” that would index in-process measurements to part geometry and properties.

The other 23 partners are: Georgia Tech; University of North Carolina-Charlotte; Stratonics; B6Sigma; Paramount Industries; General Electric (Aviation and Inspection Technologies); North Carolina State University; Lockheed Martin; Pratt & Whitney; Carnegie Mellon University; University of Texas El Paso; Penn State University; Northrup Grumman; Boeing; Stryker; Harvest Technologies; Solid Concepts; Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Imaginistics; M7 Technologies; and Ingersoll Machine Tools.

NIU: Development and Validation of Physics-Based Additive Manufacturing Models For Process Control and Quality Assurance. Collaborating with NIU on this project are Northwestern University; Quad City Manufacturing Laboratory; Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center; and Fabricators & Manufacturers Association. Northern Illinois University (NIU) and its partners aim to develop a closed-loop manufacturing process that controls microstructural and mechanical properties of products and parts made with additive manufacturing (AM) technologies.

Outputs will include a comprehensive suite of integrated tools for process control and AM part qualification. Data generated by these tools also will be used to devise and test models that enable predictive process adjustments during the layer-by-layer, three-dimensional manufacturing method.

In addition, data will guide development of customized engineered materials tailored to the capabilities of specific AM technologies, eliminating much trial-and-error testing.

This project combines innovative experimental and numerical modeling methods to provide a high level of confidence in the quality of AM-produced parts. It will provide a direct measurement capability of critical process metrics that control microstructural and mechanical properties. Process insights gained through the project’s modeling efforts, led by Northwestern, will improve design efforts and, at the same time, expand the range of capabilities of AM equipment.

Project-developed process-control and quality-measurement systems will be integrated with a diverse set of equipment owned by NIU and the Quad City Manufacturing Laboratory. To increase awareness and speed adoption of these tools, the two organizations will host a joint manufacturing demonstration facility. Transfer of the technology to the growing number of industrial users of AM equipment also will be facilitated by NIU’s membership in the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

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