Photos courtesy of Lockheed Martin; Sciaky Inc.; SwRI

The Office of Naval Research and Lockheed Martin are exploring ways to apply artificial intelligence to train robots to oversee and optimize 3D printing of complex parts.

The two-year, $5.8 million contract will allow the team to develop software models and sensor modifications to customize multi-axis, laser deposition robots to build better components.

“We will research ways machines can observe, learn, and make decisions by themselves to make better parts that are more consistent, which is crucial as 3D-printed parts become more common,” says Brian Griffith, Lockheed Martin’s project manager. “Machines should monitor and make adjustments on their own during printing to ensure that they create the right material properties during production.”

Researchers will apply machine learning techniques to additive manufacturing (AM), so the robot can monitor and control variables during fabrication, machines to optimize structures based on previously verified analysis.

The research team will vet different internal microstructures in additive builds, measuring machine performance to align microstructures with material properties. With this information, machines will make decisions to print a part that ensures good performance.

The team is starting with titanium alloy Ti-6AI-4V and integrating related research with seven industry, national lab, and university partners.

“When you can trust a robotic system to make a quality part, that opens the door to who can build usable parts and where you build them,” says Zach Loftus, Lockheed Martin Fellow for additive manufacturing.;

Photos courtesy of Lockheed Martin;
Sciaky Inc.; SwRI

Sciaky provides EBAM system to FAMAero

Sciaky Inc. will provide an electron beam additive manufacturing (EBAM) system to Future Additive Manufacturing in Aerospace (FAMAero), a privately-owned metal 3D-printed parts bureau in Fenton, Michigan. FAMAero will use the system to offer large-scale 3D-printed parts and prototypes.

The custom-made, production metal 3D printer will have a nominal part envelope of 146" x 62" x 62" (3,708mm x 1,575mm x 1,575mm), producing metal parts more than 12ft (3.7m) long. EBAM offers gross deposition rates ranging from 7 lb to 25 lb (3.18kg to 11.34kg) of metal per hour.;

Bosch Rexroth, BigRep partner on 3D printing, Industry 4.0

BigRep is equipping its large-scale, thermoplastic filament 3D printers with Bosch Rexroth CNC control systems and drives, putting Industry 4.0 connectivity and data into additive manufacturing.

BigRep CEO Dr. Stephan Beyer says, “BigRep is the first to integrate CNC-grade control systems in 3D printers. The Rexroth controls are also an excellent platform for providing our 3D printers with full connectivity for existing production and automation systems. This will establish 3D printing as a key Industry 4.0 application.”;

Photos courtesy of Lockheed Martin; Sciaky Inc.; SwRI

SwRI engineers use SLM to develop small turbine

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) engineers are developing a cooled, radial gas turbine for a small generator that can provide thousands of hours of electricity to an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), a significant improvement to current UAV turbines that only operate a few hundred hours before wearing out.

“The hotter the turbine gets, the better its performance,” says David Ransom of SwRI’s Mechanical Engineering Division. “But these smaller turbines can’t survive the temperature, so we’ve designed one that has tiny airflow passages that cool the turbine.”

To create the small, intricate design with internal air passages, engineers are using a selective laser melting (SLM) machine that builds metal parts layer by layer.

To leverage the capability of the SLM machine, the SwRI Advisory Committee for Research launched the Metals Additive Kickoff Emphasizing Research Synergies (MAKERS) program, an internal research and development effort designed to encourage collaboration between SwRI researchers on projects using SLM technology. The new turbine is one of the first products to result from the MAKERS program.