Unique capabilities of 3-D printing: Innovative manufacturing process holds unparalleled potential for engineering

October 15, 2014
ORNL researchers have demonstrated the ability to precisely control the structure and properties of 3-D printed metal parts during formation. The electron backscatter diffraction image shows variations in crystallographic orientation in a nickel-based component, achieved by controlling the 3-D printing process at the microscale. Credit: ORNL

Researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have demonstrated an additive manufacturing method to control the structure and properties of metal components with precision unmatched by conventional manufacturing processes.

Ryan Dehoff, staff scientist and metal additive manufacturing lead at the Department of Energy's Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL, presented the research this week in an invited presentation at the Materials Science & Technology 2014 conference in Pittsburgh.

"We can now control local material properties, which will change the future of how we engineer metallic components," Dehoff said. "This new manufacturing method takes us from reactive design to proactive design. It will help us make parts that are stronger, lighter and function better for more energy-efficient transportation and energy production applications such as cars and wind turbines."

The researchers demonstrated the method using an ARCAM electron beam melting system (EBM), in which successive layers of a metal powder are fused together by an electron beam into a three-dimensional product. By manipulating the process to precisely manage the solidification on a microscopic scale, the researchers demonstrated 3-dimensional control of the microstructure, or crystallographic texture, of a nickel-based part during formation.

Crystallographic texture plays an important role in determining a material's physical and mechanical properties. Applications from microelectronics to high-temperature jet engine components rely on tailoring of crystallographic texture to achieve desired performance characteristics.

"We're using well established metallurgical phenomena, but we've never been able to control the processes well enough to take advantage of them at this scale and at this level of detail," said Suresh Babu, the University of Tennessee-ORNL Governor's Chair for Advanced Manufacturing. "As a result of our work, designers can now specify location specific crystal structure orientations in a part."

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9 comments

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Dug
not rated yet Oct 15, 2014
"This new manufacturing method takes us from reactive design to proactive design. It will help us make parts that are stronger, lighter and function better for more energy-efficient transportation and energy production applications such as cars and wind turbines."

Some how "Cost Efficient" just isn't in the 3-D printing religion vocabulary. It's great for "one off" or "prototyping", but rarely a cost efficient "manufacturing" process beyond those tasks.
NOM
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 15, 2014
Some how "Cost Efficient" just isn't in the 3-D printing religion vocabulary. It's great for "one off" or "prototyping", but rarely a cost efficient "manufacturing" process beyond those tasks.
Rubbish.
When it comes to manufacuring items from titanium, 3D printing is far cheaper than the alternatives. Titanium is difficult to cast, difficult to machine and expensive. 3D printed titanium has very little waste.
Dug
3 / 5 (2) Oct 15, 2014
The only rubbish here is your understanding of economies of scale. http://www.nytime...uction-6
NOM
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 16, 2014
Your point is moot when the structural advantages mentioned in the article are considered. And it still doesn't apply for titanium.
teslaberry
3 / 5 (2) Oct 16, 2014
everyone above is missing the point.

prototyping relative to industrial production is an EXTREMELY HIGH COST activity. furthemore, money cannot adequately by itself the only measure of the comparison. you don't compare the dollar cost per object industriallly produced with 3d printed objects; that's lunacy (nom you're flatly wrong w/r to this)

teaching , learning, and experimenting with prototyping is an extremely high skill activity. it takes very skilled craftsmen. 3d printing is opening up the entire field of design , by changing the game for teaching learning and experimenting with prototyping. it's not entirely easy to compare the 'change of crafts' as an industrial narrative because it's not just about money. thus, while 3d printing brings down the financial cost of prototyping, it actually does something much more profound in relation to the INVENTION and REFINING of products to be sold for industrial production.
Dunbar
5 / 5 (2) Oct 16, 2014
Mass production


Mass production is only "efficient" if there is a receptive market, otherwise you're producing products for landfill. 3D printing opens up the potential for "on demand" distributed production; this is game changer for manufacturing.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Oct 16, 2014
Well...is there vene going to be mass production when everyone wants products tailered to their needs (and preferences).

Especially when you start thinking 'off world' the advantage of not having to build big, dedicated factories becomes clear.
But even on Earththe versatility of a 3D printing factory should not be discounted. It could react to ANY change in the product instantly - or even shift over to totally different products at any time - which would mean that you can use a factory 24/7 that would adaptively switch between products as they are demanded (i.e. you'd also no llonger need to store products until they are sold)

Supply would equal demand (Now THERE's something for economists to chew on)
NOM
not rated yet Oct 16, 2014
I have a 3D printer. I use it all the time for things for around the home and garden.
I often design my own things or copy and adapt mass produced items. I also download other people's designs and adapt them to my use.

Since before you print anything, you can be modify it to meet a specific need, mass production actually becomes irrelevant.
gutzumerken
not rated yet Oct 19, 2014
mass production might be a minus, but reduced costs for transportation and the ability to print on demand and on time might offset that.

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