Ensuring Part Quality in Metal 3D Printing: Insights from Additive Assurance


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Metal additive manufacturing is being adopted by various advanced industries due to its capacity for creating customized and intricate parts. However, it is crucial to verify the parts for ensuring their quality and practicability. This step is significant in avoiding defects and assuring prime performance. Certifications help in confirming that the specifications and mechanical attributes are similar in every production batch, thus instilling confidence in the users. By this, the users are guaranteed the reliability, quality, and longevity of the components, enabling their usage in numerous applications ranging from medical, industrial, automotive to aerospace sectors. This contributes to the reinforcement of metal additive manufacturing as a plausible choice in Industry 4.0. Additive Assurance is one of the leading companies in this technology with its AMiRIS solution. We conversed with its creators to know more about their undertakings.

3DN: Could you introduce yourself and tell us about your association with 3D printing?

I am Marten Jurg, a CEO and additive manufacturing engineer at Additive Assurance. Along with Andrey Molotnikov, my co-founder, we initiated Additive Assurance to address what we discerned to be the primary limitation in 3D printing – consistency and repeatability of parts. For more than ten years, we have been expanding the limitations of metal additive manufacturing. My association with additive manufacturing arose from my research R&D projects for aerospace system integrators. Later, I engaged in projects across multiple sectors including energy and medical devices. From these experiences, certification and qualification have always been a primary focus. Although we have the capability of manufacturing complex geometries, if they can’t be certified for use, they are essentially worthless.

When we embarked on this journey, our focus was on examining the fatigue properties of L-PBF parts intended for aerospace applications; these applications have a significant dependence on the component’s lifespan and their susceptibility to stochastic defects. We noted that the random nature of Additive Manufacturing (AM) led to increased costs, thus acting as a barrier to its adoption. However, we saw an opportunity: if we ensured part consistency through careful inspection, it would lead to cost reduction and pave the way for large-scale production.

3DN: What is Additive Assurance and how did it originate?

Additive Assurance provides quality assurance solutions tailored for metal laser powder bed fusion (L-PBF) systems. The inception traces back to my doctoral research with Andrey at Monash University. We were looking into the fatigue elements of AM parts created with L-PBF and faced firsthand the inconsistency issues that this process raises. We relied heavily on CT scanning to identify defects in the fabricated components. However, CT scanning proved to be time-consuming, costly, and majorly restrictive to our progress.

The issues we noticed roused our interest in onsite monitoring in 2016. There was a plethora of data available through melt emission observation, but the existing systems had two major drawbacks: excessive data generation and lack of thorough analysis. By experimenting with different detection methods, we created what is now known as AMiRIS – a high-resolution, long-exposure near-infrared monitoring technique that can be easily integrated with any L-PBF machine. The highly detailed melt pool images, owing to their format, enabled us to devise a machine learning approach to pinpoint defects as they occurred.

We also saw problems in the complexity of the other solutions available and the difficulty of installing them on machines, requiring significant downtime for installation and voiding the manufacturer’s warranty. End users also don’t know what to do with the mountains of information they produce, resulting in other issues such as data storage and finding time to translate what it all means. We worked with our development partners and customers to solve these problems.

3DN: What is AMiRIS and what is its role in the additive manufacturing process?

AMiRIS is a quality control sensor suite for all L-PBF systems, independent of machine supplier. It uses near infrared sensors combined with machine learning techniques to identify defects and anomalies with micron accuracy. ML models allow users to locate and identify faults automatically. Thus, they can stop faulty constructions, saving time and money. But most importantly, they provide proof of construction conformance, the basis for part certification.

The AMiRIS platform is available as a scalable cloud-based solution or as a local installation. Sensing units are installed on fleets of different machines and transmit the captured data to a central server, where GPU compute instances locate defects and inconsistencies. Centralizing all this information allows users to form a complete picture of their AM operations, from part defect to machine productivity and preventive maintenance.

We use machine learning analytics that combine the data stream into simple pass/fail criteria based on user-defined limits. Machine failures, laser scanning errors, geometric variations, coater interference, process variations, underfusion and overfusion are just a few of them. AMiRIS is easy to install, non-intrusive and can be applied on existing platforms without interrupting work.

3DN: What advantages does the technology offer and what markets are you targeting?

When it comes to AM, raising both production and productivity is key to advancing our sector. Simultaneously, ensuring quality is of utmost importance. We have been collaborating discreetly with groups in the aerospace, energy, and orthopedic device industries. The application of our technology amplifies productivity in these sectors, along with the advantage of traceable quality documentation.

Most industry players have been compelled to depend on post-process inspections like CT scanning, which proves to be both time-consuming and costly for parts manufactured by L-PBF. Consequently, there are times when the production process gets halted for months, only to discover that the parts do not clear inspection. The user must then start from scratch to reprint identical components, which doubles the cost and prolongs the lead time. Our technology, AMiRIS, enables the user to identify defects on parts during production, thus saving both time and money and eliminating headaches during the post-processing stage. Utilizing our technology, end users can look forward to enhancing productivity and ramping up production while minimizing material wastage.

We primarily serve regulated manufacturers in the aviation, commercial space, defense, medical and transportation markets. However, we have also found viable applications in other industrial sectors. We are continuously in search of future-oriented experts eager to join us on this journey to propel AM into mass production on a global scale.

The AMiRIS sensor unit is suited on a Renishaw machine (photo credits: Additive Assurance).

3DN: What can we expect from Additive Assurance in the future?

Like other industries and advanced manufacturers, we are looking for increased production capacity. With larger scale printers producing more parts, we will see more potential for critical defects and the need for industry-focused regulated solutions. That’s why we collaborate with manufacturers and software providers to integrate our technology into these fast-growing machines and service more platforms in more locations. Global expansion is an important priority. As we continue to grow and expand into other markets, we are building our strategic alliances. We are looking for bright new talent to help us lead in this critical field and help raise global standards.

3DN: Any last words for the readers?

In the last few years, the industry has been willing to assert itself. Lack of quality was an obstacle, but no longer. Advanced on-site control, analysis for certification, qualified assurance and reporting have arrived. We would love to have forward-thinking companies, experts, and personalities join us on this journey or join our advisory board. We now have a viable solution for certifying the quality of parts in production – that’s confidence you can rely on. You can find out more about the company HERE.

What do you think of the solution developed by Additive Assurance? Let us know in a comment below or on our LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages! Don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly newsletter here, the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox! You can also find all our videos on our YouTube channel.

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Meet the mastermind behind NozzleNerds.com: GCode-Guru, a 3D printing wizard whose filament collection rivals their sock drawer. Here to demystify 3D tech with a mix of expert advice, epic fails, and espresso-fueled rants. If you've ever wondered how to print your way out of a paper bag (or into a new coffee cup), you're in the right place. Dive into the world of 3D printing with us—where the only thing more abundant than our prints is our sarcasm.

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