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Process & Equipment Development

QCML has the capabilities to design processes and equipment to suit our customer’s needs.  We have designed and constructed laser cells and tooling that have accommodated a wide variety of projects involving laser cladding of wear resistant materials onto pre-existing parts.  Another process and equipment design project we have been involved with is constructing a custom metal powder bed fusion that incorporates open-source technologies.  This project is described below. 

Metal Powder Bed Fusion (PBF) technology has the capability of producing specific types of components with greater efficiency and economy than conventional manufacturing techniques.   However, the lack of in-situ process sensing and validation technology makes part qualification difficult and hinders production level activities.  It also inhibits the development of closed-loop systems that can detect and resolve build defects in real-time.  Lastly, reliance on closed-source proprietary commercial control software within powder bed fusion systems does not facilitate adequate control over process conditions.

Design and Construction:
The system we are constructing utilizes a 400 Watt fiber laser coupled with a laser scanhead that will enable a 300mm x 300mm cross-sectional build area.  An electronically variable focusing optic that allows modification of the spot size of the laser beam during the powder bed fusion process is also incorporated.  Visible and infrared cameras are present within the process chamber to monitor and record in-situ process data.  An oxygen sensor is implemented to monitor atmospheric conditions during the build process.  Laser beam profiling and power measurement techniques are also being incorporated for process verification. 

The use of in-situ process sensing technology within the powder bed fusion additive manufacturing process has the potential to further advances in qualification and standardization of parts produced using the technology.  In addition, data gathered from in-situ process sensing can be used in conjunction with computational modeling to generate a thermal history for each layer of a part produced through the process, thus allowing the prediction of microstructure formation and mechanical properties. 

This effort will improve the ability to qualify parts within the powder bed fusion process through use of in-situ sensing technologies.  Computational models can be created and refined through in-situ collection of thermal data in order to enable prediction and control of microstructures.  The in-situ sensing technology will then be linked to control parameters to enable real-time process adjustment. 

We are actively looking for research partners and funding to further increase the in-situ process sensing and process qualification capabilities of this system.

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