Rolls Royce Partners With AMAZE to Advance Metal 3D Printing

Rolls Royce is making an attempt to speed up the adoption of metal 3D printing for the manufacturing industry. The center for the research is being done at a prestigious facility that has been the source of many advancements across science and technology. These developments include the translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a deeper understanding of HIV and finding a way for scientist to unwrap complex protein receptors.

Now the facility, located in Oxfordshire and known as the Diamond Light Source, is helping Rolls Royce’s mission to improve the quality of additive manufactured parts. The automotive manufacturer is teaming up with AMAZE, a group of 26 European institutions from academia and industry. The project will be using the national synchrotron facility at Harwell, Oxfordshire to find details on the high energy conditions inside a metal 3D printer.

The synchrotron allows researchers to use X-Ray technology to examine the rate and consistency that a 3D metal printer deposits layers. The idea of the project is to collect a multitude of data that will help create an algorithm that will take using additive manufacturing to the next step.

It is no surprise that Rolls Royce is heading this research, the company has found success in 3D printing for the aerospace industry for over a decade. One specific technique that the company uses is direct energy deposition, which involves metal powder being deposited, melted and solidified coherently.

Rolls Royce is able to use blown powder to create bladed disks for engines. When one of these disks is damaged under intense heat pressure, direct energy deposition can be used to repair the part, the repaired area can then be milled back down to the required finish.

“The controllable point [of laser metal deposition is] just above the surface, where the laser hits the powder. No one actually knows what happens from then on. We are not really sure whether the laser is melting it on the surface or melting the powder in the air.” ( Said Peter Lee, a Professor of Materials Imaging at the University of Manchester.

To understand this process and the particle level reactions occurring inside the printer, the synchrotron captures a slowed down image and analyses the process at 10,000 frames per second. The researchers are able to do this by circulating electrons around a storage ring almost at the speed of light, which then produces a light 10 billion times brighter than the sun. This will allow the scientist to gain a deeper understanding of the process, specifically how and why surface fluctuations and imperfections occur.

The data gathered during the study through the synchrotron comes out to about 5 terabytes a year. Eventually, the researchers plan on using this massive amount of data to create a closed loop system, which would enable the 3D printer to correct itself and avoid the typical faults before they would happen.

This research could lead to incredible innovations for the manufacturing community. It is always great to see company’s partner with academia to find answers that cost the industry an incredible amount of time and money every year. Manufacturing Talk Radio will be keeping a close eye on the research being done by Rolls Royce and AMAZE, so be sure to keep checking back for more information.