QuesTek Innovations Wins US Air Force-America Makes 3D Printing Challenge

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QuesTek Innovations has won the Macroscale Structure-to-Properties Predictions portion of an intensive four-part AFRL AM Modeling Challenge Series sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and America Makes.

Founded in 2012, America Makes serves as an accelerator for additive manufacturing in the US and is comprised of members like learning institutions, government (and non-government) entities, industrial groups, and others engaged in economic development. The AFRL Materials & Manufacturing Directorate, Structural Materials Division, and Metals Branch (AFRL/RXCM) was also behind the challenge, with submissions accepted from November 2019 to the end of January 2020.

While the overall intent of the series was to improve accuracy in metal 3D printing, for the Macroscale Structure-to-Properties Predictions portion, the goal of AFRL and America Makes administrators was to “improve the understanding and modeling capability of the complex linkage of process-structure-performance of AM built components.”

It’s not surprising that Evanston, Illinois-headquartered QuesTek scored a win as their background was well-suited to the task at hand, and they were already engaged in developing a model for predictive capability.

On being asked to create a novel concept for the comprehensive prediction of AM metal structures (and consequent performance), the QuesTek team was provided with the following information:

  • Printed component geometry and dimensions
  • Alloy compositions
  • As-printed microstructures
  • Heat-treated microstructures
  • Surface roughness
  • Porosity

Reviewers rated QuesTek as the top performer in terms of predicting strength, elongation, and modulus of elasticity.

Nickel-chromium alloy INCONEL 625 (IN625) was the subject of the challenge, as participants were asked to create a predictive model (Image: EOS)

As a whole, the four challenge winners were rewarded with $235K to be divided among the following:

  • Challenge 1 — Dassault Systèmes Government Solutions Corp
  • Challenge 2 — The Wing Kam Liu Group at Northwestern University
  • Challenge 3 — QuesTek Innovations LLC
  • Challenge 4 — University of Utah, Carnegie Mellon University, and Los Alamos National Laboratory

While materials are one of the most basic elements necessary to 3D printing, the expanding science now associated with the technology—and especially in metal powders—is impressive, if not mind-boggling. Industrial users, manufacturers, and research labs around the globe continue to experiment with metals, alloys, composites, finding ways to improve the production of parts in critical applications like automotive, construction, aeronautics, and even 3D printing with metal in space.

QuesTek Innovations has the potential to make a unique impact on the industry, however, with its Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) systems and experience in modeling metal alloys. Using computational tools, the QuesTek team is able to create models for further study of materials and their structures and chemistry, resulting in better performance.

In a recent press release sent to 3DPrint.com, QuesTek commended both AFRL and America Makes for highlighting the importance of computational modeling in solving problems related to metal AM processes.

“QuesTek has successfully demonstrated the ability to predict microstructures and properties across a range of alloy systems in metal AM including nickel, aluminum, titanium and steel. We are aware of a significant market need for such a capability, and we are currently incorporating this into a comprehensive software package,” stated Dr. Jiadong Gong, QuesTek’s Technical Fellow and Manager of Modeling and Software Development.

“This package will be able to predict AM materials property and component performance by inputting powder chemistry, machine build parameters and subsequent thermal processing, and will enable rapid qualification of materials and components for critical applications.”

The QuesTek team has previously worked on over 60 projects due to their expertise in metallurgy, and the demand for resolution in overcoming obstacles in metallic AM processes.

Recent examples include:

  • DARPA’s Open Manufacturing project with Honeywell on Ni 718Plus
  • NASA STTR project on IN718
  • S. Navy’s Quality Made program on IN625 nickel Superalloys

Find out more about QuesTek’s AM capabilities here.

[Source / Images: QuesTek Innovations]

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