Let’s Make Some Parts – TBGA Stress Test Part II of the JEOL JAM-5200EBM Printer

IMTS

Share this Article

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Hard is what makes it great.” You have probably drawn inspiration from this Jimmy Dugan quote from the movie A League of Their Own at some point in your life. This may especially be true if your career ever involved being on the shop floor of a manufacturing business. Because manufacturing is hard. Making parts is hard. But that is what makes manufacturing the backbone of great companies and great economies.

What makes it hard? Requirements. Technical requirements – will the manufacturing process be able to make parts reliably and repeatably? Economic requirements – will the manufacturing process be able to make parts profitably? One can optimize the process for either of the requirements, but it is challenging to achieve both, at scale.

Additive Manufacturing (AM) has been dealing with this challenge for more than a decade in trying to make that leap from prototyping to series production. New materials, new ways to form a layer, and new ways to apply energy – the AM industry has been constantly tinkering with these inputs to churn out new solutions in the form of printers. Some better, some bigger, some faster, but all vying for the home run – customer adoption on the production shop floor. But they need to meet requirements first.

In November 2022, TBGA went under the hood of the JEOL JAM-5200EBM printer in Part I of the TBGA Stress Test to review its impressive process economics claims. With 70+ years of expertise in electron optics, JEOL, the Japan-based company, entered the AM market, applying its core expertise to address unmet needs in Electron Beam Powder Bed Fusion (EB-PBF). From our 2022 assessment, we concluded that the printer could meet the economic requirement of typical parts. But we also identified areas where the printer’s maturity fell short in meeting the technical requirements, as viewed through the TBGA lens of qualification. Now that JEOL has placed its first JAM-5200EBM in North America, we saw an opportunity to follow up on our previous review and investigate the JAM-5200EBM’s ability to meet the technical requirements to make production parts. In this article, we chronicle the printer’s journey in the last twelve months and document our techno-economic analysis of the JAM-5200EBM.

RIP 3D Printing. Long Live AM!

My colleagues, John Barnes and Tim Simpson, perceptively observed in their article that the AM industry is going through a paradigm shift in driving value creation and innovation from printer technology to the final end-use application. It’s not about making geometric shapes anymore. It’s about making real parts, with real requirements, and in a way that preserves the pedigree of the underlying materials and process. In this regard, printer OEMs now have both the opportunity and responsibility to develop data that supports the predictability of performance and qualification of the end use parts. Developing new materials and enabling new applications involves more than just delivering a printer with parameters to the end user. The printer OEM can accelerate adoption by generating data to show compliance to industry standards on installation and operational qualification, and material specifications.

A Data-driven Journey

Precisely a year after launching the printer in North America, at RAPID, in May 2023, JEOL announced the first installation of the printer at Cumberland Additive (CAI) facility at Neighborhood 91 (N91) in Pittsburgh with the goal of supporting serial production of parts. This was a noteworthy milestone for JEOL for two reasons – a partnership with CAI, an established contract manufacturer in the AM industry, and presence in N91, a resilient advanced manufacturing production campus.

On the heels of this announcement, JEOL launched a test campaign on the printer at its Tokyo factory site. It aimed to demonstrate that the JAM-5200EBM printer can consistently make material in Ti-6Al-4V alloy that meets or exceeds the requirements of AMS7011 by performing an operational qualification (OQ) in accordance with AMS7032. In addition to tensile tests, JEOL also ran fatigue tests to help support applications in both aerospace and medical industries.

Figure 1 – JEOL JAM-5200EBM Progression Timeline

In October 2023, the same JAM-5200EBM printer that underwent the AMS7032 tests in Tokyo was unveiled at N91 (Figure 2). Within six days, the printer was fully operational, and within three weeks of installation, an AMS7032 compliant build was repeated using the same batch of powder used in Tokyo. This presented the perfect opportunity for my colleague, Chelsea Cummings, an AM applications expert, to get hands-on time evaluating the user-friendliness and operation of the printer and run the TBGA stress tests.

Figure 2 – Testing the JAM-5200EBM in Tokyo and Pittsburgh

Meeting the AM Industry’s Flagship Qualification Standard

The AMS7032 Operational Qualification (OQ) Standard evaluates the ability of an AM powder bed fusion printer to consistently meet material specification requirements while maintaining process control and stability over several builds.

Methodology

To perform the OQ, three (3) builds with various test coupons were printed over a period of three months with TEKNA Ti-6Al-4V Grade 5 powder compliant with AMS7015. The builds were designed and executed in compliance with all build requirements listed on AMS7032 Table 1.

Figure 3 – AMS7032 OQ Test Design

Key Process Variables (KPVs) for the JAM-5200EBM were characterized and a process window established. Standard JEOL process parameters were utilized for the builds, including electron beam and powder layer parameters. A Process Control Document (PCD) compliant with AMS7007 was prepared and followed. A standard process flow was developed to ensure a repeatable operation was performed, as shown below.

Figure 4 – AMS7032 OQ Test Process Flow

The test coupons were printed in a temperature-controlled facility in Tokyo by trained JEOL technicians. The coupons were then shipped to an ISO 9001 and AS9100 certified Hot Isostatic Press (HIP) supplier. An ISO 17025 and NADCAP accredited test lab subsequently performed radiographic, mechanical, metallurgical, and chemical composition analysis. The results were compared to the requirements of AMS7011 to confirm adherence.

Results

Upon completion of all three builds, it was determined that the JAM-5200EBM’s KPVs were within the expected process window, and the builds ran successfully as indicated in the official Build Reports outputted by the JAM-5200EBM post build.

Chemical composition analysis of all nine printed Ti-6Al-4V Grade 5 samples tested were found to comply with AMS7011 requirements.

Figure 5 – AMS7011 Chemical Composition Test Results

All metallographic tests passed AMS7011, with a transformed beta microstructure and no discontinuities larger than 20μm observed. Radiography was found to be acceptable in accordance with the recommendations listed on AMS7011 Table 3.

Figure 6 – Sample Micrograph from AMS7032 Build

All tensile results met minimum requirements per AMS7011, with the results showing the JAM-5200EBM achieves excellent ductility. The results also met the minimum tensile properties listed on ASTM F2924 and ASTM F136. Eight (8) of nine (9) T99 values met minimums with Z-Direction TYS 1ksi below which meets 1-sample acceptance test with margin requirement to comply with AMS7032. Further, the JAM-5200EBM has excellent anisotropy with only 2-3ksi difference in UTS. Lower anisotropy is a design advantage and provides additional freedom when orientating parts inside the printer.

Figure 7 – JAM-5200EBM versus AMS7011 Tensile Strength Comparison

Discussion

Multiple metal AM specifications to date have been generated using data from a single printer model or printers from a single manufacturer. AM is a fast-evolving technology, and industry specifications will be most useful if they are applicable to newer printers from either the same or different manufacturers. While this is not unique to AM, it is more likely to occur with AM due to lower initial capital investment and rapid equipment changeover. JEOL’s is the first EB-PBF printer known to meet the requirements of AMS7011 for Ti-6Al-4V alloy since they were first established using material printed on another EB-PBF manufacturer’s model. 

Taking on the Fatigue Challenge

Fatigue is a detrimental process of mechanical degradation experienced by structural materials and components under long-term service. Wrought products have been the gold standard for fatigue performance in many applications in the aerospace, medical, nuclear power, oil, and gas industry. The fatigue performance of the 3D-printed material depends on several aspects such as the manufacturing process and material used, geometry and loading conditions, microstructure, residual stress, surface roughness, porosities, and post-treatments (surface and volume treatments).

Methodology

A total of (18) specimens were printed in the Z-direction across the three OQ builds, HIP’d and tested at room temperature in the unnotched condition per ASTM E466-21 at R-ratios of -1 and 0.05.

Results

The results show that, when compared to wrought product fatigue curves published in MMPDS, the coupons printed on the JAM-5200EBM exhibit equivalent fatigue life, with an improvement in the high cycle fatigue region.

Figure 8 – JAM-5200EBM versus MMPDS Fatigue Life Comparison

Discussion

Being able to meet fatigue requirements is one of the key enablers for AM to be adopted in more structural and mission critical applications. While only a small number of fatigue coupons were tested, the initial results certainly indicate the material printed on JAM-5200EBM can perform on par with wrought products in the HIP’d condition.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Have we repeated ourselves enough? As noted throughout our article series on AM qualification and certification, repeatability of the process is one of the five pillars upon which trust in a new manufacturing technology is built. While the JAM-5200EBM met the rigorous AMS7032 qualification standard while tested at its factory in Japan over multiple builds, will the same printer be able to repeat its performance when tested at a different installation location?

The unveiling of the JAM-5200EBM at N91 presented an opportunity for JEOL to demonstrate just that – the repeatability of the printer not just at a different location within the same site but at a location halfway across the world. To control the variability, JEOL repeated a single build conforming to AMS7032 using the same build file as the ones performed at their factory site in Japan. However, the results are yet to be made available for assessment by TBGA at the time of writing this article.

A Process Engineer’s Assessment

Nobody knows the pain points of operating a printer than an experienced AM process engineer. When my colleague, Chelsea Cummings, was presented with the opportunity to get hands-on time with the JAM-5200EBM, she readily brought her cheat sheet of pain points with PBF printers and put the JEOL printer to test.

Methodology

Chelsea designed, setup and ran a build on the JAM-5200EBM printer following JEOL standard operating procedures. The build consisted of special purpose coupons designed by TBGA to test the robustness of the process called SmartifaCTs™. SmartifaCTs™ were designed to quickly assess parameters across a wide variety of features when CT scanned. In this instance, these coupons were used to give a visual mark of small feature definition and relative angle to the build plate across several locations. Further, petal-looking coupons were specially designed to provide a visual indication of print resolution of a common vertex and how well the scanner handles arcs across several locations on the build plate. The coupons were printed and subject to visual inspection post-build.

Figure 9 – TBGA Stress Test Build Configuration

Next, a comparative analysis was made between the JAM-5200EBM and the incumbent EB-PBF printers on the market on the most common pain points that currently exist with operating them.

Following this analysis, the required operator skill level, operation repeatability, and the effect of any variance in the operation on the build quality were systematically assessed for each of the steps in the JEOL operating procedure. A composite score of 1 to 5 was calculated where 1 implied the process step required little to no operator skill, was readily repeatable, and any variation had low impact on the build quality, while 5 implied the process step required extensive operator training, was non-repeatable, and any variation could potentially lead to a build failure.

Finally, the overall productivity of the printer was reviewed in terms of the accumulated beam time, and the non-beam time consisting of setup time, cool down time, build breakdown time, and printer downtime. Deadtime between builds was not considered for this review since the printer at N91 is not in production use yet.

Results and Discussion

All the coupons passed visual inspection, i.e. they were deemed worthy of continuing to downstream processing had they been production parts.

As shown in Figure 10, the JAM-5200EBM addressed most of the known issues in areas such as cleaning between builds, build errors, vacuum, and powder handling. Two items that were identified for improvement were providing a better reach by design for the clean vacuum to scoop powder during cleaning between builds, and having an error code reference for ease of troubleshooting during operation.

Figure 10 – JAM-5200EBM versus Incumbent Pain Points Comparison

In terms of operational friendliness, the printer scored well in most operational steps of setting up and executing a build. They required very little operator skill or training, were easily repeatable build after build, and any variations in the operation had low impact to the build quality. Challenges, however, were identified in three steps that involved ground wire removal, build plate leveling, and certain inspection steps such as layering recoater strips. As an example, fine adjustment of the build plate leveling, if not done correctly and consistently by the operator, could affect the success of the entire build. While this is a common problem across most PBF printer platforms, JEOL could consider providing automated visual feedback to the operator such as relative pin alignment.

Figure 11 – JAM-5200EBM Operational Friendliness

While the JAM-5200EBM is not yet in use for series production at N91, it has accumulated a cumulative beam time of approximately 277 hours over 11 builds since its installation in October 2023. The builds included standard cubes, Factory Acceptance Test specimens, an AMS7032 build, TBGA stress test, and several builds that included demonstration parts. Figure 12 below shows the distribution of time between print and non-print time for each build, where cooldown time is a key productivity metric for EB-PBF printers. JEOL can further reduce cooldown time by implementing removable build chamber in its design in future iterations of the printer. In all 11 builds, there was no printer downtime due to software or hardware issues.

Figure 12 – JAM-5200EBM at N91 Productivity Summary

An Updated Scorecard

Back in November 2022, we assigned an industrial maturity scorecard for the JAM-5200EBM. The updated scorecard is presented in Figure 13. Two areas where JEOL improved its maturity to Level 3 are in materials characterization and robustness. As noted earlier, JEOL is in the process of demonstrating the repeatability of the printer by re-performing an AMS7032 build at N91. Since the results of the tests were unavailable at the time of writing this article, JEOL holds its current score of Level 2 for repeatability until the data becomes available. While the JAM-5200EBM made its first installation in North America, JEOL will need to significantly expand its availability in order to achieve Level 3 maturity for industrialization.

Figure 13 – JAM-5200EBM Maturity Scorecard (Updated)

Let’s Make Some Parts

JEOL brought the JAM-5200EBM as a production-ready printer to the AM market at a time when the EB-PBF market also saw an influx of new entrants trying to address the unmet needs and pain points of the incumbent solutions.

The experienced AM community is data hungry, as any new technology vying for customer adoption should be. In November 2022, TBGA showed that the JEOL JAM-5200EBM has the right process economics to make a business case for certain applications. In the last twelve months, JEOL has executed a further data-driven roadmap to demonstrate the readiness of its printer to meet qualification requirements. In the process, JEOL set the bar for EB-PBF printer OEMs by becoming the first non-incumbent EB-PBF printer to meet the requirements of AMS7011 and demonstrate compliance to AMS7032. Further, the TBGA stress test not only helped validate the robustness of the process to variations in geometry, build plate location and resolution but also suggested that the printer provides a more operator friendly experience compared to incumbent EB-PBF printers.

It’s time for AM printers, like the JAM-5200EBM, to demonstrate they can make parts, not shapes. But if you want to make parts, you need to meet requirements. This simply means having a business case to print, and a printer and process that can be qualified. Achieving both is hard, but that is what will make AM great.

And remember. There’s no crying in AM! No crying!

Share this Article


Recent News

3D Printing News Briefs, April 13, 2024: Robotics, Orthotics, & Hypersonics

Polls of the Week: Are 3D Printed Guns a Threat and Should We Regulate Them?



Categories

3D Design

3D Printed Art

3D Printed Food

3D Printed Guns


You May Also Like

3D Printing News Briefs, April 3, 2024: Kickstarter FDM 3D Printer, Artificial Eyes, & More

In 3D Printing News Briefs today, we’re talking about an FDM 3D printer on Kickstarter, advancements in artificial eye creation, and 3D printed solenoids for electromagnets. Then we’ll move on...

Daring AM: The Global Crackdown on 3D Printed Firearms Continues

In the last few years, a surge in police raids uncovering 3D printed guns has led to concerns about their growing association with criminal gangs. Although typically seen as inferior...

3D Printing Ethics: Navigating the Gray Areas of 3D Technology

From crafting custom birthday presents to building life-saving prosthetics, 3D printing has revolutionized how we interact with the physical world. But with great power comes great responsibility, and the democratization...

Poll of the Week: Exciting Topics at Additive Manufacturing Strategies 2024

This week, from February 6-8, the 7th annual Additive Manufacturing Strategies (AMS) event will take place. Produced by 3DPrint.com and Additive Manufacturing Research (AMR), this is the only 3D printing...