Additive manufacturing/3D printing is gaining ground in manufacturing applications. However, this technology is not “hit-the-start-button” simple, yet. The AM industry still needs more experienced users. Feature rich software tools are needed. And meeting the particular needs of manufacturing must be addressed.
The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) and the Army Research Lab (ARL) have teamed together to create a program that will help address some of these needs. The result is the Advanced Manufacturing, Materials, and Processes (AMMP) Center and Consortium. NCMS and ARL have formed a relationship to handle collaborative efforts. Many of these collaborative efforts are between the federal government and industry.
The mission is to help US manufacturers be competitive through these public-private partnerships. The partnerships work with shared resources to the benefit of both the government and industry.
AAMP will drive advances in technologies primarily associated with metal additive printing for additive manufacturing. NCMS is looking to fill in some of the gaps that industry says it has.
Presently, there are two projects with ARL. One deals with a slew of basic research projects on software, materials, and sensory development.
The other project is to make prototypes. Said Jon Riley of NCMS, “here we’re actually prototyping materials, software, processes, equipment, and design methodologies. It could be anything that covers the spectrum from A to Z on how you design, develop, fabricate, and sustain additive manufactured components.
“For the prototypes,” continued Riley, “we are working on two things. One is for a brand new aluminum alloy that’s never been developed but has been tailored to allow higher quality, better thermal properties through the additive manufacturing process.”
Aluminum alloys are readily available, but they are not optimized for use in additive processes.
The second project is to create a much larger piece of equipment that would print that aluminum alloy or other metal alloys. It would address three main challenges within additive manufacturing: part size, cycle time, and design limitations.
“The development of new materials and the design space of process control and real-time process controls will enable industry to make decisions in real time versus having to print a part from start to finish before determining whether it’s going to meet the needs of the customer,” added Cosima Boswell-Koller, a member of the NCMS team.
“We’re also looking into different ways of finishing the printed materials,” continued Boswell-Koller. “Different new materials will allow different properties, different speed rates, …. how far we can push some of those new alloys, maintaining their structural integrity so that they actually can be used within a system and going through the whole process and truly understanding how far we can push it.
New materials will likely face several challenges to acceptance, especially in aerospace, automotive, and medical applications. “Engineers, especially those in science and technology, are always going to question, because they want to have that true, 100% fundamental understanding,” added Boswell-Koller. “Whereas many end customers want to have it demonstrated that it is going to be able to be flown or be able to be used within the system without needing that true, basic, fundamental understanding of it.
“So it’s really the full spectrum,” said Riley, “and it’s what makes this program very unique. I’m sure there are other things similar to it, but in my experience here at NCMS this is a pretty comprehensive nuts to bolts program that has an NCMS piece in the middle, but with ARL and industry on both ends doing things and it becomes a conduit to get things not only developed but commercialized, which is the home run for everybody. So it’s a really intriguing piece doing this with ARL.”
Filed Under: 3D printing • additive manufacturing • stereolithography