Metal 3D printing is an extremely fast-growing sector, and as it grows, the need for standards becomes increasingly important. Metal 3D printed parts are being used in markets such as the automotive, aerospace, and medical industries, and in these industries, there’s really no room for error, especially as more critical parts are being 3D printed. Customers need to know that they are getting exactly the parts they ask for, and that the quality and mechanical properties of each part matches those of the parts that have come before.
So it’s good news that a new ASTM International standard is geared towards the increasing use of metal additive manufacturing for medical, aerospace, and other parts. The new standard, soon to be published as F3303, addresses ways to qualify machines and processes that help build parts using laser or electron beam powder bed fusion. It also outlines the related steps needed to configure and control digital data. The standard was developed by ASTM International’s subcommittee on materials and processes, which is part of a larger committee on additive manufacturing technologies.
“An additional standard is underway to support part qualification, quality assurance, and post-processing of powder bed fusion parts,” said ASTM member Amir Farzadfar, Materials and Process Engineer for Additive Manufacturing at Corning Inc.
“This new standard supports the standardization of practice and advancement of commerce in the emerging additive manufacturing industry,” said ASTM International member Hector Sandoval, Materials and Processes Engineer at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “Depending on customer requirements, parts may be used in a wide variety of applications, from prototyping to structural.”
Standards may seem like a dry subject area, but they are a necessity in the industries in which metal additive manufacturing is being used. If you’re flying in an airplane that contains critical 3D printed parts, you’re going to want to know that those parts have been built according to standards set forth by a knowledgeable organization; likewise, if you’re a hospital ordering 3D printed surgical tools, you’ll want to be assured that each of those tools has been manufactured using the same precise methods.
Metal additive manufacturing is a tricky process, and everything from the quality of the metal powder to the means of removing supports is instrumental in creating a part that functions exactly the way it is intended to function, without risk of failure. A lot can go wrong in the metal additive manufacturing process, so quality assurance and testing standards are equally important in ensuring that every part has been thoroughly assessed before being put into use.
Recently, ASTM International announced its new partners – EWI, Auburn University, and NASA – for an Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence, which, according to ASTM President Katherine Morgan, will “build a strong foundation for the future of additive manufacturing…(and) will help fill industry gaps and accelerate innovation.” The selected organizations and their partners will work together to form a hub that advances technical standards, related research and development, education and training, and more.
The latest partner to be added to the Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence is the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), based in Ansty Park, Coventry, England. Supported by leading research organizations across Europe, the MTC will be the first non-US founding partner. The MTC was established by the UK government in 2010 as part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, a major investment in research centers. The MTC, which employs over 600 people, is home to the UK’s National Centre for Additive Manufacturing as well as the European Space Agency’s Space AM Benchmarking Centre.
“We are thrilled to bring on board one of the world’s most exciting new leaders in additive manufacturing,” said Dr. Mohsen Seifi, ASTM International’s Director of Global Additive Manufacturing Programs. “Clearly, MTC will play a key role in achieving the vision of filling industry gaps in AM standardization and driving innovation on global scale.”
The MTC’s National AM Centre employs metal, ceramic and polymer 3D printing technology in an end-to-end, industrial-grade facility. The center’s expertise includes material testing, process simulation, design and part inspection. Recently it underwent a large expansion, including a $20 million government-funded project to develop a next-generation factory for 3D printed aerospace parts.
“We are excited to join this vitally important effort to build a strong technical foundation for the future of additive manufacturing,” said Professor Ken Young, MTC’s technical director. “Standards are critically important to enable industry to exploit AM technology. To be recognized by ASTM International for our AM capability and to be included as the first non-US partner is a great honor.”
You can find more information on ASTM International standards for additive manufacturing here.
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