3D Printing Standards for Manufacturing Predictability

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How reliable are your manufacturing processes? Do you meet design specifications every time, or just some of the time? Manufacturers need reliable, repeatable production processes to ensure part quality and consistency. Material selection is important, but the way a part is made can also affects its physical properties. That’s true with forged steel and with the 3D printing of aluminum parts.
3D printing or additive manufacturing isn’t new, but processes like forging are more familiar to most part manufacturers. When an aluminum part is made with 3D printing, its microstructure is different than if it had been made with traditional methods. Moreover, the microstructure of an aluminum part made with one 3D printer may not be the same as that of an aluminum part made with a different 3D printer.
For part manufacturers then, the decision to use 3D printing for more than just prototyping could affect part quality. Additive manufacturers may perfect their own production processes, but what happens when it’s time to change or upgrade equipment? If metal parts made by a new 3D printer are microstructurally different than parts made with an old 3D printer, will quality suffer?
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is now working the problem – and its findings could help manufacturers while speeding the overall adoption of 3D printing. Recently, this agency of the U.S. Department of Defense announced an Open Manufacturing program to create comprehensive reference documentation for 3D printing, including both the physics and the process parameters.
Is your New York State manufacturing company experimenting with 3D printing? Have you embraced additive manufacturing already? If you’re skeptical about the quality of 3D printed parts, could DARPA’s development of 3D printing standards change your opinion of additive manufacturing?
Image Credit: © smuki/Dollar Photo Club


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