Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has been in the business of advancing cutting-edge research and technology for over 90 years, focusing on research that produces both immediate and long-term applications in US defense. Some of the nation’s top engineers and scientists work at NRL, in order to boost the country’s position as a global naval leader. The research that goes on at the Navy’s specialized laboratory spans from storm prediction and hazardous chemical detection to nanotechnology, virtual reality, and even 3D printable tools, like adjustable groove-joint pliers created by a Navy scientist working in the NRL’s Computational Multiphysics Systems Laboratory. The NRL states that its team is “driven to discover” in order to produce results that benefit both the military and civilians. The NRL, and the entire Navy itself, had already jumped on the metal 3D printing bandwagon, as the technology has a lot to offer for military applications, but a recent announcement shows us that the researchers at the lab are not content to rest on their proverbial laurels.
The lab has acquired its first laser powder-bed metals machine, for use in enhancing its materials research and rapid prototyping. NRL chose the M2 cusing machine, by manufacturer of power-bed laser metal additive manufacturing systems Concept Laser. GE acquired a 75% stake in Concept Laser a few months ago, and will in the next few years take full ownership of the company, which introduced its innovative LaserCUSING technique to the world in 2001. LaserCUSING is available through the company’s Mlab 3D printer series, which includes the M2. The NRL plans to use its new M2 to strengthen its focus on metal additive manufacturing.
Dr. Charles Rohde, NRL Acoustics Division, said, “We require a wide range of Additive Manufacturing (AM) capabilities, ranging from quality monitoring to process parameter development, and need an architecture conducive to that research and development effort.”
The NRL, which employs approximately 2,500 personnel, will use the M2 to print components in stainless steel. It’s very important to monitor the data, such as temperature, power quality, and laser output, of a laser melting system. So the lab, in addition to acquiring an M2 cusing machine, will also be monitoring the quality of its metal applications through Concept Laser’s QMmeltpool 3D, which offers in situ quality assurance to inspect parts as they grow. The tool’s process is based on an on-axis system, and offers position-related 3D visualization and real-time monitoring. The system will help the NRL detect any defects in design, and see if “an application is on the edge of acceptability.”To help its engineers develop custom parameters, and achieve freedom of design, the NRL will also utilize CL WRX Parameter 2.0. Users can assign different parameters to each specific area of a part, and can assign exposure strategies to the different elements, resulting in parts with numerous parameters assigned to each. This makes it more likely for the part to be 3D printed correctly the first time around, as technical risks can be reduced and build quality can be enhanced. To learn more about CL WRX Parameter 2.0, take a look at Concept Laser’s video:
Concept Laser is thrilled with the NRL’s decision to adopt laser powder-bed metals AM into its additive manufacturing strategy.
“It is very exciting that the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is bolstering their focus on metal additive manufacturing,” said John Murray, President and CEO of Concept Laser Inc. “There are so many advantages of 3D metal printing that our defense strategy could benefit from, including reduced lead time, less material waste, and printing complex geometries with no required assembly. NRL has a history of over 90 years of innovation in naval power and we look forward to hear how they will use 3D metal printing to break boundaries.”
Discuss in the Naval Research Laboratory forum at 3DPB.com.