Quality Control Takes the Spotlight for 3D Metal Printing

(DGIwire) – In the world of 3D printing, few events can rival the annual Formnext trade fair. At the 2018 show in Frankfurt, Germany, as many as 550 companies and institutes presented their latest designs and product developments for industrial tooling, production, quality management and measurement, according to an article on Optics.org.

A separate article on TheFabricator.com recalled some of the show’s highlights: an entire 3D-printed car chassis; a status update from GE Aviation, which continues to enjoy high-profile success in utilizing 3D printing for engine design; news that Ford is utilizing 3D-printed tools on the assembly line for the Ford Focus in Germany; and much more.

“Advances in the applications of metal additive manufacturing (AM) demonstrate that this technology has really come into its own,” says John Rice, CEO of Sigma Labs. “Along with these applications has come an increased appreciation of the need to implement in-process quality assurance protocols at the factory to uphold the precision and integrity of the printed parts.”

At Formnext, Sigma Labs launched the newest configuration of its PrintRite3D® quality control solution—incorporating PrintRite3D® SENSORPAK® 4.0 hardware and PrintRite3D® INSPECT® 4.0 software. The company’s latest PrintRite3D® suite of products presents a significant value proposition to OEMs and manufacturers, as it is designed to increase production yield of 3D metal manufactured parts and to shorten time to market, removing a major hurdle that has been affecting manufacturers.

The first component of the PrintRite3D® platform is SENSORPAK®, which uses multisensors and affiliated hardware to collect real-time data on additive manufacturing processes. Comprising a set of on-axis in-process sensors, it enables part quality assessment during manufacturing, and is capable of measuring the true in-process state variables associated with an additive 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 metal or alloy during the process. It provides manufacturing engineers with part 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 ANALYTICS®, consisting of software and a database that will link all critical data over multiple builds, machines and fabrication sites over time.

“In-process quality assurance is a disruptive technology that is every bit as vital to the future success of 3D metal printing as is the technology that allows the parts themselves to be printed in the first place,” Rice adds.