Automated metallic 3D printing pilot project

Departments - 3D/Additive Manufacturing

Sigma Labs Metal AM technology receives quality-assurance validation; Linde, Liebherr-Aerospace optimize AM process; HRL Laboratories registers aluminum 3D-printed alloy; Henkel acquires Molecule Corp.

The NextGenAM automated metallic addive manufacturing (AM) project will work on a production line for partners Premium Aerotec, EOS, and Daimler. The technology can 3D print metal components, plastics, and ceramics.

Launched in 2017, the project develops digitized next-generation manufacturing lines to more cost-effectively produce aluminum components for the automotive and aerospace sectors. NextGenAM tests have proved overall production process costs at Premium Aerotec could be reduced up to 50%.

A scalable additive production chain eliminates manual work throughout the process, from data preparation and central powder supply to AM build, heat treatment, quality assurance, and separating components from the build platform.

Quality checks have been promising, so partners are preparing for an audit according to industry standards. Automating the entire AM production chain will allow manufacturing of larger batches in series production – with the same reliability, functionality, durability, and economic efficiency as conventionally manufactured components.

Sigma Labs Metal AM technology receives quality-assurance validation

PrintRite3D technology developed by Sigma Labs Inc. has proven process consistency and product quality in metal additive manufacturing (AM), according to a research study sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) Open Manufacturing Program and conducted with Honeywell Aerospace at Honeywell’s Advanced Manufacturing Engineering Center. Details of the study were published in the journal Integrating Materials and Manufacturing Innovation.

Sigma Labs CEO John Rice says, “Our 6-year research with Honeywell and the DARPA Open Manufacturing Program demonstrates that the analysis of the thermal emission density (TED) metric made by our technology can play a critical role in ensuring quality in industrial AM of metal parts. DARPA’s conclusion that Sigma’s technology can be used for certifications and/or certification of components of 3D metal parts has significant positive implications to advance wide-scale industrialization of metal AM.”

Sensors used in the TED in-process quality metric monitored the component’s porosity as it was being built.

Linde, Liebherr-Aerospace optimize AM process

Linde and Liebherr-Aerospace Toulouse SAS collaborated to optimize the benefits of additive manufacturing (AM) for aluminum aircraft components, demonstrating the need for precise oxygen levels in the printer chamber for quality components.

For the study, Linde’s ADDvance O2 precision solution gas analysis technology provided monitoring, control, and automatic adjustment of oxygen concentration. Detecting O2 concentrations with high precision – as low as 10ppm – without cross-sensitivity, the unit automatically initiated a purging process to maintain a pure atmosphere. Therefore, they were able to test different levels to assess how they impact printed components.

HRL Laboratories registers aluminum 3D-printed alloy

HRL Laboratories LLC is commercializing its additively manufactured (AM) high-strength aluminum, the first additive alloy registered by the Aluminum Association.

The Aluminum Association oversees alloy registration and product standards used throughout industry. The association’s new additive alloy registration system was launched in February 2019.

“This will connect us to this particular alloy composition forever,” says Hunter Martin, lead scientist on the HRL team. “These alloy numbers will always be trackable back to HRL, like a DNA signature. When I first contacted the Aluminum Association about registering our alloy, they did not have a way to register alloys printed from powders, so they decided to create a new system for registration of additively manufactured materials – a first in the materials space.”

Zak Eckel, another HRL team member says, “We’re in the process of commercializing this material, which is already in high demand. As we scale up to commercial levels, AA registration validates our product. Companies that want the powder for 3D printers can ask for its specific number, and it becomes a true commercial alloy.” 

Henkel acquires Molecule Corp.

Adding to its customized additive manufacturing (AM), Henkel has acquired U.S.-based 3D printing and industrial inkjet company Molecule Corp.

“Molecule’s technology and engineering center in California also broadens our global 3D printing footprint. We now provide 3D printing support to our customers in all major regions around the world,” adds Michael Todd, Head of Innovation at Henkel Adhesives Technologies.

The acquisition enhances Henkel’s capacities to invent and develop new material or material components and grants access to industrial inkjet applications.