3D Printing Continues Its Ascent to the Skies

By Staff Reports

(DGIwire) – In October 2018, GE Aviation’s 3D printing facility in Auburn, Alabama reached a major milestone: it produced its 30,000th 3D-printed fuel nozzle tip. As an article on ECNmag.com recently observed, fuel nozzles may seem like unimposing objects—but their production via 3D printing has not only given rise to some of the world’s bestselling commercial jet engines but has also shown the world what 3D metal printing can do.

The article recounts how a thorny engineering challenge—involving the design and manufacture of an energy-efficient fuel nozzle with multiple passages inside its tip—proved too difficult to create using traditional methods but was finally produced satisfactorily using 3D printing.

“In a relatively short period of time, metal additive manufacturing (AM) has proven its worth as a serious manufacturing method ready for industrial use,” says John Rice, CEO of Sigma Labs. “The aviation and aerospace sector is among the first to truly grasp the potential of this capability and put it into commercial production. A key element in fostering the smooth growth of this technology is the concurrent evolution of in-process quality assurance—a disruptive technology that is an absolute must for ensuring that precision parts meet specifications down to the micrometer scale.”

Sigma Labs’ PrintRite3D® suite of products presents a significant value proposition to OEMs and manufacturers, as it is designed to increase production yield of 3D metal manufactured parts and to shorten time to market. PrintRite3D® combines inspection, feedback, data collection and critical analysis into a unified platform.

The first component of the PrintRite3D® platform is SENSORPAK®, which harnesses multi-sensors and affiliated hardware to collect real-time data on additive manufacturing processes. Comprising a set of on-axis in-process sensors, it enables part quality assessment during manufacturing, and is capable of measuring the true in-process state variables associated with an additive manufacturing process.

This component is complemented by INSPECT®, which comprises software for in-process inspection of metallurgical properties. It uses sensor data and establishes in-process metrics for each metal or alloy during the process. It provides manufacturing engineers with part quality reports based on rigorous statistical analysis of manufacturing process data, and allows for interrogation of suspect part data that can be used for process improvement and optimization.

Sigma Labs is further refining the PrintRite3D® suite to include two additional components: CONTOUR®, a layer-by-layer geometry measurement tool, and ANALYTICS®, consisting of software and a database that will link all critical data over multiple builds, machines and fabrication sites over time.

“When it comes to demonstrating the potential for metal AM in aerospace and other sectors, the sky is the limit,” Rice adds.

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