NRC partners with AM companies, using analysis method to improve cleanliness and safety of 3D printed parts

The partnership is focusing on the improvement of powder characterization methods which would added a layer of specificity needed for within the AM industry.

0 August 27, 2018
Devin Jones

NRC

A partnership between The National Research Council of Canada (NRC), AM supplier AP&C and GE Additive has led to what they claim is a strategy that “improves cleanliness and safety of 3D printed parts.”

Using micro-computed tomography—an x-ray that creates cross sections of an object—and 3D image analysis, foreign particles not wanted in AM powder are easily highlighted and discarded. According to an NRC press release, this method was validated using “titanium powders destined for production of aerospace parts, in collaboration with industrial partners.”

“The competitiveness of 3D printing relies heavily on the capability of machine users to recycle their powders; however, the industry is concerned that foreign particles will be introduced in the feedstock as the powder is recycled,” said Frederic Larouche, Executive Vice President & Chief Technology Officer at GE Additive. “The method we are developing could help confirm that the feedstock maintains the utmost cleanliness during processing.”

The research team working on the project are expanding the scope to include other materials and metals, such as nickel alloys. The method could be very useful to qualify recycled powders in applications where safety is important.

Additionally the partnership is focusing on the improvement of powder characterization methods which would added a layer of specificity needed for within the AM industry. The NRC is also working on the flow of metal powders during the 3D printing process by measuring how spherical and porous particles are.

Using this method, each individual foreign particle is visualized; size, brightness and overall concentration are measured. In situations where cross contamination is a concern, the technique is more sensitive and discriminating than current chemical analysis.

“We hope this new method will support the industrial adoption of 3D printing and ease its implementation in highly regulated environments such as the aerospace and medical devices industries,” said Louis-Philippe Lefebvre of the NRC. The National Research Council is pleased to have joined forces with AP&C to improve the reliability of the manufacturing process and metal powder behaviour.”


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