AM Research at Clemson for U.S. Army to Employ 3D Systems Nine-Laser Printer

March 10, 2021


Clemson University researchers are receiving funding from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Army Research Laboratory (ARL) to create new technology aimed at helping speed development of 3D-printed components for future ground vehicles, air platforms and munitions. The research will leverage a unique nine-laser metal-additive manufacturing (AM) system, featuring a 1 m by 1 m by 600-mm build chamber, developed for DEVCOM ARL by 3D Systems.


Clemson University project leaders Srikanth Pilla, Fadi Abdeljawad and Gang Li (left to right) as well as Shunyu Liu and Rahul Rai will drive research from the Clemson Composites Center in Greenville, SC, to create new technology aimed at helping speed development of 3D-printed components for future ground vehicles, air platforms and munitions for the U.S. Army. The research will leverage a unique nine-laser metal-additive manufacturing system, featuring a 1 m by 1 m by 600-mm build chamber, developed by 3D Systems. Image courtesy of Clemson University.
The Clemson researchers say that they will create a “digital lifecycle platform” augmented with artificial intelligence as part of the project. The idea behind the platform is to help production engineers more quickly and inexpensively design, analyze and fabricate a range of large and complex geometry components with embedded multi-functionalities, such as ground- and air-vehicle structures with power transmission, energy storage, sensing and self-monitoring functions, for achieving overall size, weight, power and cost efficiencies.

An $11-million cooperative agreement was established with DEVCOM ARL for this research, with first-phase funding totaling $6.3 million. Once fully developed, the platform would allow engineers to design and test new components without physically building them.

“This agreement is another example of Clemson’s growing emphasis on partnering with industry and the government to leverage the university’s research expertise to benefit our state and nation,” says Jim Clements, Clemson president. “I am very proud of the work being done by our faculty that will allow this cutting-edge technology to play an important role in the creation of next-generation vehicles and other vital equipment for our military.”

The research is based at the new Clemson Composites Center at the Greenville Technical College’s Center for Manufacturing Innovation, adjacent to the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research. Clemson faculty involved in the project include: Fadi Abdeljawad, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; Gang Li, a professor of mechanical engineering and associate director of the Clemson Composites Center; Shunyu Liu, assistant professor of automotive engineering; and Rahul Rai, Dean’s Distinguished Professor of automotive engineering. The principal investigator on the project is Srikanth Pilla, the Robert Patrick Jenkins Endowed Professor within the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences and founding director of the Clemson Composites Center.

Part of the challenge in 3D-printing new components is using the right feedstock to print the component. Researchers need to understand the combination of materials and what amounts will create the desired properties, such as strength or stiffness.

“As part of the new project, we will develop a database of raw materials, including metals, plastics and composite materials, that then could be used to train artificial intelligence and create digital models of potential new feedstock materials,” Pilla says.

To create the database, the researchers plan to print sample coupons and subject them to a series of tests to measure their chemical, mechanical and thermophysical properties. Researchers says that the coupon testing will position them for more-advanced studies in the future where they would 3D-print subcomponents that take into account the complex geometries of full-sized components.

“The database development as well as validation of the digital life cycle through experimental characterization and testing are enabled using the state-of-the-art infrastructure available at the Clemson Composites Center which includes 3D printers, thermophysical testing equipment, optical metrology, quasi-static and dynamic drop-tower test infrastructure, accelerated aging equipment, high-speed cameras, and spectroscopic equipment,” Pilla says.

“Through our collaboration with ARL, we’ve made tremendous strides in developing the world’s largest, fastest, metal-powder 3D printer,” says Jose Doval, advanced R&D director at 3D Systems. “Expanding this work with Clemson University allows us to push the limits of the technology even further. This includes investigating new methods of in-situ detection, as well as ways to visualize the build in real-time from the data collected in each layer.”

 

See also: 3D Systems

Technologies: Powder-Bed Systems, Software

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