A Unique Solution to Assessing 3D Printed Metal Parts

(DGIwire) – Even as metal 3D printing becomes increasingly common, checking the resulting manufactured parts for structural faults is still a big challenge. A recent article on All3DP.com spotlighted a unique approach to overcoming this problem: freezing the printed parts in ice. According to one researcher at the University of Cincinnati, encasing a 3D printed metal part in a block of ice allows ultrasonic waves to travel through the part more easily than otherwise, allowing a simpler way of detecting any irregularities that happen to exist in the part.

“Technology is being harnessed in ever more ingenious ways to provide quality assurance of metal 3D printed parts,” says John Rice, CEO of Sigma Labs, a provider of quality assurance software for additive manufacturing under the PrintRite3D® brand. “Being able to smoothly integrate these systems into the production processes utilized by manufacturers is a goal that has made impressive strides in recent months and years.”

Sigma Labs’ PrintRite3D® 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 real-time in-process-quality assurance by integrating inspection, feedback, data collection and critical analysis into a unified platform.

Rice observed, “By detecting and offsetting quality problems as the parts are being made, Sigma saves manufacturers the high cost of 100 percent post-process inspection of 100 percent of the parts by using costly high-tech inspection with CT scanning or exotic-sounding solutions like freezing parts to inspect them with ultrasound.”

Hardcoded into all Sigma products is PrintRite3D® ANALYTICS®, proprietary software for manufacturing intelligence: trend, correlation, exploration. The software and database links all critical data over multiple builds, machines and fabrication sites over time, and provides management and seamless access to all in-process and post-process data over the entire product life cycle.

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.

“The PrintRite3D® platform has much to offer a wide range of stakeholders with an interest in the evolution of metal additive manufacturing and its potential role as a pillar of 21st century industry,” Rice adds.