ASTM Drives 3D Printing Standards via Investment into Eight Crucial Projects


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Nonprofit organization ASTM International announced its third round of funding to support research that will help expedite standards in additive manufacturing (AM). The group creates and publishes technical standards for a range of industries, materials, products, services, and systems around the globe. This new investment, which includes additional in-kind contributions, will support the ASTM International AM Center of Excellence (AM CoE) goal of aligning technical standardization with a rapidly evolving and safer AM industry.

About three years ago, when ASTM announced that it would be setting up AM CoE, it began enlisting partners to help launch the center. Today, founding members Auburn University, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), manufacturing technology innovator EWI, and the UK-based Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), are working on several R&D projects to help fill over 25 standards gaps identified in an AM roadmap.

This year, over 60 ideas for projects were submitted by ASTM International members for consideration. After a thorough review, eight high-impact studies were approved by the ASTM executive section focused on research and innovation within the committee on additive manufacturing technologies.

“We are thrilled to support these crucial and high-impact research projects in additive manufacturing that seek to accelerate standardization,” said Mohsen Seifi, ASTM International’s Director of Global Additive Manufacturing programs. “These eight projects will join the 14 existing projects that address the AM CoE’s high-priority research areas for standardization, including design, data, modeling, feedstock, processes, post-processing, testing, and qualification.”

Auburn University will work to develop a standard design for evaluating lattice structures in metal AM under compressive loading. The study, led by principal investigator Nima Shamsaei, Associate Professor at Auburn University’s Department of Engineering and Director of the National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence (NCAME), aims to improve the reliability of lattice structures used in applications ranging from bone ingrowth for medical implants to weight reduction in transportation structures.

Mechanical engineering doctoral students Basil Paudel and Jonathan Pegues look at a 3D computer-aided design model with Nima Shamsaei, director of the NCAME, in the additive manufacturing lab at Auburn University. (Image courtesy of Auburn University)

In addition, Auburn University will partner with NASA to design a series of test components and a methodology to assist validation of process parameters for powder bed fusion, attempting to fill a void in currently available industry standards regarding the specifics of AM machine and process qualification. The proposed test components will enable manufacturers to confirm that a parameter set is robust and produces suitable part quality across a variety of local thermal conditions by incorporating challenging geometries.

Applied technology developer EWI will aim to develop a common data exchange format (CDEF) for powder characterization. This standard will enable efficient data sharing throughout the AM supply chain by serving as a link between different data management systems. Data sharing is necessary to create a robust AM data ecosystem, but organizations are currently using a wide range of data management solutions with no standard way to share data between them.

According to the EWI, this leads to increased cost and effort as an organization often must find unique solutions for parsing any given data set provided to them from an external group. To enable data sharing and reduce associated costs, the study’s lead investigator and EWI Applications Engineer, Luke Mohr, expects to create a standard practice that provides a simple, replicable method for transferring AM data quickly and accurately between organizations.

MTC will lead another project focusing on developing standard guidelines for evaluating polymer powders during recycling are reuse in AM to improve confidence for manufacturing with recycled powders. Generally, any powder that is not melted or bound during powder bed AM has the potential to be recycled or reused in subsequent manufacturing runs to decrease cost and material waste. However, there is still a significant need for standards to provide procedures for evaluating polymer powder quality, best practices for recycling or re-using powder during future builds, and guidance on how the use of recycled powder may affect part qualification.

In an additional study, MTC will work to address guidance on metal powder feedstock sampling and recycling strategies. This research will identify strategies currently used for sampling and recycling powder feedstock and provide guidance on the suitability of these methods for AM processes, materials, and end-use applications.

ASTM is partnering with new leaders in additive manufacturing to create standardized guidelines. (Image courtesy of ASTM International)

Also, Singapore’s National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster (NAMIC) has been funded for three out of the eight projects on this round. A national AM accelerator, NAMIC will first join forces with the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) to conduct a study of maraging steel, an alloy commonly used by the automotive, aerospace, sports, and tooling industries, among others. This work will provide a basis for developing a material specification for this class of alloys in AM applications while the scope of work will be accomplished with an industry survey and mechanical testing of commercially available maraging alloys and AM processes.

NAMIC is also partnering with Singapore’s Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech) to develop miniature tensile specimens for AM. As described by ASTM, these specimens will reduce the time and material costs of witness testing, a method of monitoring build quality by testing a coupon printed alongside the components in an AM build.

Finally, NAMIC and A*Star’s National Metrology Centre of Singapore will work together to develop standard guidance for volume traceability of non-destructive testing for metal components produced with powder bed fusion and binder jetting. This time, the project will assess components made with both processes and will provide guidance for use in assessing part quality. The resulting data generated will be analyzed with artificial intelligence (AI) to enable the volume traceability of porosity within the samples.

The last project, by Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR), will continue two previous projects started in round two. The first project will provide guidance for polymer design value tests in AM, looking to create a standards guidance document to help inform on performing uniaxial and multi-axial fatigue, creep, and wear for polymer AM material extrusion technologies. While the second project seeks to establish coupon-part property relationships for dynamic testing of additively manufactured polymers.

For AM to develop a strong market, there is a need for standardized processes. Most experts agree that the lack of AM standards is a key point to take into account the barriers to broader adoption of AM. ASTM’s efforts to increase standardization in the AM industry are expected to benefit companies as the market continues to grow, ensuring better quality and process consistency. AM has the potential for zero-waste manufacturing, improving supply chains and so much more, which is why ongoing research projects like these could enhance the technology and help alleviate risks.

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