3D Metal Printing Moves Into the Manufacturing Spotlight

(DGIwire) – Over the past several years, 3D printing has steadily been edging its way into greater numbers of materials and applications than ever before. Today, for example, 3D printers are being considered as a means to produce stainless steel 5G smartphones, high-strength alloy gas-turbine blades, and a wide range of other complex metal parts, as reported recently in IEEE Spectrum.

“The technology for additive manufacturing of metals is finally hitting its stride,” says John Rice, CEO of Sigma Labs, a provider of quality assurance software for additive manufacturing under the PrintRite3D® brand. “Aerospace and medical appliances are among the most prominent adopters to date, for components ranging from aircraft parts to prosthetics. There is a need for all of these parts to be not only strong and durable but built precisely to specifications.”

Sigma Labs’ PrintRite3D suite of products presents a significant value proposition to OEMs and manufacturers, as it is designed to increase production yields of high-quality 3D metal manufactured parts, cut post-process quality inspection costs and reduce time to market. PrintRite3D® combines inspection, feedback, data collection and critical analysis into a unified platform.

The first component of the PrintRite3D platform is SENSORPAK®, which utilizes multi-sensors and affiliated edge computers to collect real-time data on additive manufacturing processes. It enables part quality assessment during manufacturing and is capable of measuring the salient in-process state variables associated with an additive metal manufacturing process.

This component is complemented by INSPECT®, which comprises software for in-process inspection of metallurgical properties. It uses sensor data and establishes in-process metrics for each product’s design specifications and metal. It provides manufacturing engineers with information in real time that can permit them to avert a part that is beginning to display discontinuities from going on to become a rejected part. INSPECT® also generates quality reports based on rigorous statistical analysis of manufacturing process data and allows for interrogation of suspect part data that can be used for process improvement and optimization.

Sigma Labs is further refining the PrintRite3D suite to include two additional components: CONTOUR®, a layer-by-layer geometry measurement tool, and CLOSED LOOP CONTROL, consisting of software that can signal the machine controller for a corrective to offset a part beginning to deviate off design from developing into a rejected part.

“As the range and volume of 3D printed metal parts continue to expand, the requirement for quality assurance will expand as well,” adds Rice. “The PrintRite3D platform is designed to facilitate this goal with a maximum of operational efficiency and a minimum of logistical challenge and cost.”