We’re trying to keep up with the rapidly developing technology of 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, and, more importantly, to keep you apprised of the latest breakthroughs, large and small. We love a good challenge as much as we love watching the story of 3D printing unfold. Efforts to keep the United States at the forefront of this game-changing technology are being made across the spectrum from the home workshops of passionate makers to the boardrooms of industry heavy hitters like Sigma Labs, Inc. and B6 Sigma, Inc. (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sigma). B6 Sigma is all about process. The company, which is staffed with some of the nation’s top scientists, “develops and engineers advanced, in-process, non-destructive quality inspection systems.” Its clients are commercial energy, defense, aerospace, and other firms not only in the US but around the world who look to B6 Sigma for “productive solutions for metal-based additive manufacturing” as well as other “advanced manufacturing technologies.”
B6 Sigma announced yesterday that it is the beneficiary of its very first contract thanks to GE (General Electric) Aviation, a major global provider of turboprop and jet engines, ship propulsion applications, and integrated systems and components for general aviation, military, business, and commercial aircraft. GE Aviation also provides a vast service network to support their products. The nearly $500,000 awarded to B6 Sigma came to GE Aviation via one of the major forces driving development of 3D printing, America Makes. America Makes (AM), based in Youngstown, Ohio, is an additive manufacturing research project that gets its funding from the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII).
America Makes is a big deal. It’s the country’s foremost collaborative partnership in 3D printing. It’s the “pilot institute for up to 45 manufacturing innovation institutes” and gets its impetus from the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining. It is stoking the innovation fires where additive manufacturing research, creation, and discovery are concerned. By nature of its public-private structure, America Makes partners with member organizations from academia, industry, non-government, government, workforce, and economic development resources. If the US stands a chance of competing on a global scale in 3D printing, it will be because America Makes and its partners won’t stop working to realize that goal.
Sigma Labs has been working to develop software for advanced additive manufacturing monitoring. Put simply, Sigma’s new software, called In-Process Quality Assurance (IPQA) is a product that serves to inspect while production is taking place. It inspects layer-by-layer and corrects the 3D printing machine if a defect or errors are suspected. IPQA is predictive, it finds root causes to errors and performs proactive action before the error occurs. According to Sigma, the contract will “showcase [its] PrintRite3D® technology” across multiple platforms, in particular high-volume, high-quality aerospace components. Over the next year and a half, Sigma Labs will test its new technology with members of the project’s team — Honeywell, Aerojet Rocketdyne (a unit of GenCorp), and GE Aviation.
Sigma Labs’ CEO and President, Mark Cola, announced the award of the contract and said, “Working with some of the best-known companies in the industry, including GE Aviation and Honeywell, we will use this project to further demonstrate our PrintRite3D® technology and provide for additional data collection.”
We’ll be watching as Sigma Labs leads the way, taking the US to the ever more impressive heights in the expanding universe of additive manufacturing and 3D printing. Let us know what you think of this partnership in the Sigma Labs/America Makes forum thread over at 3DPB.com.