Additive manufacturing (AM) stands for improving yield in industries like medical technology, aerospace or automotive. Inevitably, this trend to develop and improve 3D printing processes has a major impact on the rules of metallurgy and of what is possible when creating metals. New techniques mean new raw materials, alloys and analytical needs. Materials Researchers seek to characterize new architectures, determine product quality in this developing field, and to enable the novel, high-performing metal structures of tomorrow.
Researchers working in metal additive manufacturing, or metal 3D printing, face the challenge of characterizing the metal powder material, as the parts are created layer by layer from the metal powder, and of defining its quality – from the processing of the powder to its structure, properties, and performance in the final 3D printed parts. As the powder is the building block of additively manufactured parts, the size distribution of individual powder particles influences how it is compacted, and thus affects the density of the build. It also has an impact on the potential for defects that might only become visible later in the process. Therefore, verifying the absolute reliability of the final 3D printed parts is the foremost aim of researchers and engineers working in the field.
Microscopy Solutions for Metal Additive Manufacturing
Imagine being able to define the quality of the metal powder in each step of the material’s characterization, analyze the raw material for the powder, assess porosity and effectiveness of the sintering process in 2D and 3D or even investigate 3D morphology non-destructively? With Microscopy Solutions, you can exploit surface and roughness analysis techniques, apply high resolution imaging on sintered and unsintered regions, and benefit from multiple contrast modes during imaging. In addition, you will have the unique capability of studying finished parts non-destructively with X-ray microscopy using it as a research or a quality assurance tool.
- Processing: Study the production of metal powders and understand the full process, from raw stock material to the final part, with X-ray Microscopy (XRM)
- Structure: Observe and quantify the produced microstructures of the metal powder, like particle size distribution or examination of single powder particles, with Light Microscopy (LM) and Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM)
- Properties and Performance: Investigate or predict how an additively manufactured metal part will perform under real world conditions by conducting macroscopic and microscopic examinations of specimens using LM, SEM, and XRM. Conduct image processing and perform segmentation by using Software Solutions to determine relevant metallurgical information such as grain size, phase fractions, porosity, and layer thickness.
Develop an efficient and effective process, and detect and characterize defects within metal AM parts reliably. In order to match the physical properties and the reliability of traditionally machined or formed parts, you want need to make sure your process produces parts with a density greater than 99.5%. However, the process parameters for fabrication can vary dramatically for different materials and shapes resulting in unwanted defects in the final part. Moreover, as the development of metal AM for mainstream production continues to grow, so will the need for improved understanding of the full process, from raw stock material to final part.
Non-destructive 3D Imaging of Feedstock Powder
- Create 3D tomographic data sets at high resolution and contrast with minimal or no sample manipulation. Understand the interior structures of such parts better and introduce XRM into your lab.
- Analyze complex AM parts easily with X-ray microscopes, which offer a unique architecture that allows easy collection of high resolution tomography information.
- Investigate arbitrary locations providing you with a level of non-destructive analysis unavailable from conventional CT technologies by applying a smart software workflow. Use this new level of insight as a key to improving the overall process understanding for improved quality.
High-Resolution Tomography Data of 3D-Printed Flaws
Whenever you are aiming to investigate fairly small powder particles of sizes ranging from a few micrometers to tens of microns in diameter rely on multi-modal microscopy techniques.
- Use optical microscopes for quick powder sampling and reliable analysis of particle size distribution.
- Examine batches or each individual particles and help engineers to better understand the built-in ingredients for additive manufacturing by using Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEM) that offer nanometer level resolution.
Particle Size Distribution Analysis
Individual Particle Analysis: Modularity, Satellites, Surface Contamination
Think what it would mean if you found a solution to minimize failures during additive manufacturing. You would be able to avoid the rejection of a small percentage of a batch of aluminum wire due to unexpected breakages or delamination of small regions of coating on a rolled steel. This would be a minor consequence. Or, alternatively, if the failure occurs in a major engineering application such as an oil rig, airplane, ship, or bridge, the failure can be catastrophic with long-lasting consequences. Once known, investigators can determine corrective actions to prevent or mitigate future failures.
No manufacturing or metal production system is perfect. Even with the most rigorous quality controls and thoroughly validated production methods, a percentage of component failure is always possible. However, to prevent or mitigate future failures, establish liability, or simply gain a better understanding of a system under test conditions, microscopy should be added as an essential step.
Driving the Industrializaton of Additive Manufacturing
Get in touch with us to find out more about the benefits of ZEISS Microscopy Solutions for your metal additive manufacturing research, book a demo at our customer center, or get a quote. We are looking forward to hearing from you.