Partnership Aims to Save Additive from Itself

Colorado’s ADAPT Center—and its growing cache of data—is seeking common ground when it comes to AM qualification

We are thankful to be featured in Brent Donaldson‘s Additive Manufacturing magazine story on the ADAPT Center – Alliance for the Development of Additive Processing Technologies (ADAPT) Center and its work, and industry’s need, to pin down an approach AM qualification.

Donaldson focuses on the challenge myriad process variables present and the need to have statistically validated AM qualification processes for aerospace and other defense applications.

As Brent notes via Twitter, the methodologies used by certifying agencies such as DoD, FAA and NASA are derailing the adoption of additively produced parts for . This story attempts to explain what’s happening and how this problem can be addressed.

Overwhelming process variables for metal additive manufacturing processes are derailing AM’s adoption for critical parts in aerospace. Colorado’s ADAPT Center—and its growing cache of data—is seeking common ground.

“The data generated under the qualification program effectively ‘fixes’ the materials and procedures in place and requires the process to become static. While this is desirable and necessary for a standardized and repeatable process, it also limits the ability to seek improvements in the process (and in the materials generated by the process). The additive manufacturing approach allows for more degrees of freedom in the fabrication process. Multiple process paths can yield the acceptable end product, both microstructurally and mechanically. Furthermore, the conditions and/or material chosen in the qualification study may turn out to not be the ideal path as the process evolves and matures. Unfortunately, any excursion from the standard deposition process, as established in the specification procedures, will not be allowed under the current methodology. The challenge for the additive manufacturing community is that the process segment of the process-microstructure-property relationship is not necessarily uniform or static. This implies the need for an outcome-based approach for material qualification.”

In other words, he argued, the same qualification process that keeps planes from falling from the sky will, in a future that includes more and more aerospace parts produced additively, make it much more difficult for new aircraft to leave the ground. Therefore, he said, as long as the microstructures of the material are identical, qualification processes should focus on the outcome, not the path it took to get there.

If the qualification process is a major impediment to the deployment of additively produced parts, the challenge is to streamline the way in which we prove sufficient microstructure similarity to certifying agencies. This would require computational methods not typical of other manufacturing processes. But, perhaps more significantly, it would also require partnerships, notably between public and private sectors, to an extent other manufacturing challenges simply haven’t required.

As it turns out, Brice wasn’t the only one who recognized this need.

Among others, we here at Faustson did – read the rest of the story here.

This piece pairs well with one earlier this year from Peter Zelinski, also at Additive Manufacturing, on how machine learning is helping to move AM qualification beyond trial and error.

Find more of Brent Donaldson’s work for Additive Manufacturing magazine, including work on AM qualification, here.