Researchers to develop 3D printing tools to improve aerospace and medical device manufacturing

A Carnegie Mellon University team will research how to enhance the tools used in powder-bed additive manufacturing processes (3D printing).

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Pittsburgh, PA - For the next 18 months, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers will work with industry to develop methods to make the three-dimensional (3D) printing technology for fabricating metal components into a higher-volume manufacturing process, said CMU in a news release.

With a $1.9 million grant from America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Institute in Youngstown, OH, CMU mechanical engineering professor Jack Beuth will lead a research team in developing tools to improve powder-bed additive manufacturing (AM) processes, better known as 3D printing. The technology allows the building of highly complex components that cannot be fabricated by traditional processes, while decreasing the cost of products, including jet engine parts and medical implants.

Beuth and CMU team members Fred Higgs, professor of mechanical engineering, and Anthony Rollett, professor of materials science and engineering, and Ola Harrysson of North Carolina State University, have been working to control and understand metal microstructure and mechanical properties of products made by two kinds of AM processes. His team is investigating the EOS laser sintering process and the Arcam electron beam melting process. Both are powder-based AM processes that directly build metal components from metal powders. At present, these two AM processes are the most successful at automatically fabricating any 3D shape of metals, says the news release from Carnegie Mellon University.

Beuth's team is charged with determining how to alter the additive manufacturing process to allow for use of a wider range of powders. The team includes 12 industry partners representing powder manufacturing, aerospace, medical devices, electronics, and other industries. CMU, a founding member of America Makes, has purchased new metals-based AM tools to complete the research.

"We are looking to continue our dynamic partnerships with all participants as we seek ways to improve US manufacturing," said CMU's Gary Fedder, director of the Institute for Complex Engineered Systems (ICES), associate dean of research for the College of Engineering and the university's leader in the ongoing additive manufacturing initiative.

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