The Changing Landscape of Additive Manufacturing Materials: Experts Weigh In

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DeYor Performing Arts Center, Youngstown, Ohio

Today in Youngstown, Ohio, a solid agenda of additive manufacturing industry experts are gathered to discuss the changing landscape of materials used in 3D printing. Part of SME‘s Smart Manufacturing seminar series, this event is held in partnership with America Makes.

“SME and America Makes come together to bring you this one-of-a-kind seminar 3D Printing Materials Seminar,” the event description states. “3D Printing has significantly grown in recent years and is expected to quickly grow over the next few years. Discover which materials and filaments are most durable, what types of machines to use, certification/qualification standards as well as how to reduce cost, and increase profitability.”

The day is off to a great start, with presentations covering the past, present, and future of additive manufacturing. The full list of speakers includes:

  • Greeting & Opening Remarks
    Larry R. Holmes, Jr., PI: Materials and Technology Development for Advanced Manufacturing, U.S. Army Research Laboratory
  • Case Studies for Additive Manufacturing Designs
    Bianca Lankford, Mechanical Engineer, Northrop Grumman
  • Advances in AM to Ease the Post Hype Dip 
    Kenneth Church, Ph.D., Chairman and CEO, nScrypt
  • Prototype to Production: Building Validation Efforts for Qualification of Materials and Processes
    Dr. Tracy L. Albers, President and CTO, Rapid Prototype and Manufacturing LLC.
  • Parameter Development for Material Properties in Additive Manufacturing
    Duann Scott, Additive Manufacturing Strategist, Autodesk, Inc.
  • Additive Manufacturing Material Implementation at GE
    Deb Whitis, Materials Leader, GE Additive
  • 4D Printing Enabled by Active Polymers & Composites
    Dr. H. Jerry Qi, Professor and the Woodruff Faculty Fellow, The George Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, Georgia Tech
  • Geometrically Complex Fibers and Feedstocks via Thermal Drawing of an Additively Manufactured Thermoplastic Preform
    Eric D. Wetzel, Ph.D., Team Leader, Multifunctional Materials Research Area Leader, Soldier Materials, U.S. Army Research Laboratory 
  • Pain Points Found in the Pursuit of Smart Manufacturing
    Brett Brune, Editor in Chief, Smart Manufacturing magazine
  • Expanding design space through AM multi-materials solutions
    Brett Conner, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Manufacturing Engineering Director, Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Initiatives, Youngstown State University
  • Metal Additive Manufacturing – Material Properties through Process Control
    Scott Hill, Manager, Central Region of North America, SLM Solutions
  • Molecules to Manufacturing: Advancing the Polymeric Materials Toolbox for Additive Manufacturing
    Christopher B. Williams, Associate Professor, Virginia Tech | Director, DREAMS Lab | Associate Director, Macromolecules Innovation Institute
  • America Makes and the Future of Public/Private Partnerships
    Tiffany Westbay, PMP, Membership Director, America Makes

As an industry event targeted at participants working every day with these technologies, presentations are geared toward higher-level understandings; there’s no hand-holding today. We’ve been diving right in to the meat of the matter, focusing on developments in materials and how the careful study and increasing understanding of material properties leads into advancing work in additive manufacturing. Design parameters calibrated to specific materials and machines can ensure higher-quality print jobs and more successfully created components, opening doors to more advanced applications.

Larry R. Holmes, ARL

The first half of the day has seen presenters examine real-world research and development efforts, highlighted by use cases, customer applications, ongoing developments, and research extending the capabilities of machine and material.

Among applications covered so far are the potential for 3D printing to enhance Army operations and deployments with in-the-field manufacturing at faster speeds, engineering case studies, realities of what’s currently possible beyond Yoda heads and hype, investigating and validating materials and processes, software take on parameter development, aviation and the additive value proposition, and adding a fourth dimension to additive manufacturing through use of active polymers and composites. Information is coming fast and hard, with each presentation rich in knowledge and supported by years of work and hands-on experience.

The morning sessions focused largely on the industrial impact of 3D printing, and that’s by design; event organizers noted that they sought to establish a solid flow for the day to best benefit listeners’ experience.

“We’re seeing a collaboration of industry leaders and academia, what manufacturers are doing today and what they want to do in the future,” Carl Mitroff, SME Conference Manager, told me over lunch. “Today is set up to hear industry first and the challenges they’re facing; the afternoon will see academia and where this is all going.”

Bianca R. Lankford, Northrop Grumman

The event’s organizers have carefully designed the program to highlight the realities today in additive manufacturing, along with a look ahead at a realizable future. Because the agenda is geared toward these realities, attendees have been participating across the board.

“Attendees are more advanced at this event; they’re already using the technology, they’re asking technical questions; this isn’t an intro to additive,” Stephanie Gaffney, Director, Additive Manufacturing Programs, Youngstown Business Incubator (YBI), told me.

Speakers today are talking with the audience, not talking at them; each presentation is in fact a conversation. While a formal question and answer period follows each session, with a high level of participation, the conversation is continuing in the halls, at lunch tables, around the tables in the atrium.

“There’s a good variation on industry, a good blend of speakers; this is very informative of where additive manufacturing is going,” Ashley Martof, Industry Liaison for the Youngstown Business Incubator, said over lunch.

Dr. Tracy L. Albers, rp+m

The networking aspect was carefully designed in the program, as speakers are both readily accessible and have overall been happy to delve deeper into their areas of expertise.

Careful planning went into every aspect of today’s seminar, as SME focuses on bringing industry together. They have been working closely with America Makes, both today and much more broadly.

“Youngstown is the heartbeat of additive manufacturing, and with our partners at America Makes, Youngstown State University, the Youngstown Business Incubator — we bring experts together in the heartland of manufacturing,” Mitroff continued. “We have an important relationship with America Makes and are partners in events big and small; they were a big partner for RAPID + TCT. We collaborate with them often; they are the institute for additive manufacturing.”

America Makes, which celebrates its fifth anniversary next week, has had a big impact on both the Tech Belt – formerly the Rust Belt – and on the advancement of additive manufacturing technologies overall. Later today, the agenda extends to a tour of America Makes’ HQ here in Youngstown, and many participants have noted their happy anticipation of seeing operations there.

There’s more to come as we head into the afternoon’s sessions, and we’ll be keeping you up to date with the latest as we switch gears to a look into the future of AM this PM.

[All photos: Sarah Goehrke]


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