NIAR Increases Capabilities with New Metal 3D Printer, Industrial X-Ray CT

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This spring, was on site when Airbus and Dassault Systèmes became official residents of the Innovation Campus at Wichita State University (WSU) in Kansas, with a combined goal of innovation in the aerospace field. The grand opening marked a big step forward in a shared vision that began when Dassault first formed a partnership with WSU’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) back in 2015. Dassault has opened a 3DEXPERIENCE Center in WSU’s Experimental Engineering Building, and WSU students have the opportunity to work on real-life engineering projects with 300 Airbus employees who focus on design work for the next-gen A350 XWB in the company’s WSU facility.

“Wichita’s talent pool of aerospace and aviation experts is among the richest in the world. The aviation expertise here is recognized within Airbus and around the world,” said John O’Leary, Vice President, Airbus Americas Engineering, back in April. “The Innovation Campus is only going to help Wichita’s expertise grow.”

[Photo: Sarah Goehrke]

Now, teams from Dassault and Airbus Engineering have access to the multitude of resources on the 120-acre Innovation Campus, which includes a makerspace and laboratories. At the grand opening event, Michel Tellier, VP of Aerospace & Defense, Dassault, explained that the new center holds the largest physical testing facilities, outside of Boeing and Airbus, in aviation today.

“We think this could be a very interesting center for startups and big companies — and for the engineers of tomorrow, to understand concepts in a real-world setting, with a broader spectrum,” Tellier said.

NIAR, which performs industry-funded structural testing for 3D printing materials and parts, recently added several new pieces of equipment, including a professional-grade metal additive manufacturing system that’s housed in NIAR’s Additive Manufacturing Lab.

[Photo: Sarah Goehrke]

The AM Lab supports both local and national industry in building 3D prototype models from multiple materials. Then the prototype parts are used in order to test for function, form, and fit. There are multiple 3D printers housed in the lab, including a BAAM (Big Area Additive Manufacturing), an Objet260 Connex3 and a production-series Fortus from Stratasys, a LulzBot Mini, and an Mcor IRIS HD.

The new 222 Standard System, from South Dakota-based engineering and manufacturing firm RPM Innovations, features powder-fed laser metal deposition (LMD) technology. It has a rotary table for use in cladding work, or to build around a shaft, and a build capacity of two cubic feet.

“Additive Manufacturing has advanced dramatically in the last decade and permeated into just about every business sector. The new RPMI system will enhance our capacity for prototyping, tool development and additive manufacturing research,” said Paul Jonas, NIAR Director of Special Programs.

Chris Rempe, manager of the NIAR Additive Manufacturing Lab, uses the new metal AM system. [Photo: WSU]

NIAR is currently working with the FAA to develop the necessary methodology and procedures to have polymer additive manufacturing materials added to the National Center for Advanced Materials Performance (NCAMP) shared materials database; NCAMP works with the FAA and other industry partners to qualify material systems, and populate a public materials database. Targeted for completion in about a year, manufacturers will be able to get design allowables for polymer-based additive manufacturing materials that are available to the public, thus making the materials more efficient and economical for use in aerospace applications.

Jonas said, “This is a very powerful enabler since NCAMP materials are recognized by the FAA, ESASA and all branches of the U.S. military.”

Once the US-manufactured 222 Standard System has completed a routine installation, calibration, and technician training, it will be available for use later this month.

NIAR engineers use new X-ray computed tomography equipment to perform nondestructive inspection of an aircraft component. [Photo: WSU]

The new metal additive manufacturing system is not the only new equipment that NIAR obtained this summer – it’s also added several nondestructive inspection (NDI) systems, which include an industrial-scale digital x-ray and 3D computed tomography system. The X-ray CT, a comprehensive multi-source and multi-detector inspection system, is used to inspect objects up to five feet without sectioning. It can visualize the interior features of solid objects, and improve multiple processes, like quality control, failure analysis, and the inspection of multiple articles, including thick, additively manufactured metallic structures.

The high-fidelity NDI technique of computed tomography basically reconstructs 3D images of an object, using smart computer algorithms and computing power, out of multiple micron-level 2D digital radiographic projections. Taking advantage of real-time evaluation capabilities of CT technology with digital radiography can speed up productivity, while getting rid of the consumables cost that’s necessary in normal X-rays.

NIAR can thank the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for its new high-tech system – the X-ray CT was possible through a proposal that Waruna Seneviratne, the technical director of NIAR Composites & Advanced Materials Laboratory, submitted to the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program. Seneviratne was awarded $1.5 million for his proposal, titled “X-Ray Computed Tomography for Nondestructively Inspecting Damage Initiation and Growth Mechanics of Composites and Bonded Joints under Fatigue Loading.” Discuss in the NIAR forum at

[Source: WSU]


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