AM is a rapidly growing segment of the engineering industry, expected to grow from $14 billion in 2018 to over $350 billion by 2035.
Working directly from a digital model, additive manufacturing 3D prints objects layer by layer, enabling new designs and innovations that were not possible before. Unlike the traditional manufacturing process, additive manufacturing allows custom parts to be developed on-site for specific uses, alleviating issues such as transportation, storage, long lead times and huge excess inventory.
The downside of AM is the lack of quality manufactured parts. AM involves heating powders with a laser to create a shape, a process known as laser sintering. A significant challenge with current technology is the uncertainty of mechanical properties and component stability as the powder cools and solidifies.
“One of the challenges of metal AM is the difficulty of knowing with 100% certainty what the mechanical properties (such as stiffness and strength) of printed components are,” Restrepo explained. “It is also difficult to predict or reduce the dimensional variability of components against design specifications. These challenges mean that printed parts cannot currently be certified for use in critical components, those that, if they fail, can compromise human lives.
Restrepo added, “We model the laser sintering process to predict the mechanical properties and dimensional stability of components fabricated with AM. The unique ingredient of our models is a technology developed by UTSA for sensitivity analysis. This unique technology will allow us to predict the mechanical properties, reliability and qualifications of parts generated by AM. »
The team’s research was made possible with resources from the UTSA Makerspace. Researchers use his recently unveiled Renishaw 3D printer, a philanthropic donation from a longtime supporter Edward Whitacre Jr..
Renishaw’s 3D printing technology is an integral part of the research project. It allows faculty members and student researchers to fabricate parts and collect data that will confirm their computer models or inform necessary changes to calculations.
“UTSA’s state-of-the-art Makerspace brings technology to students and faculty that dramatically expands the possibilities to research, explore and build,” said Millwater. “The Renishaw 3D printer is a cutting-edge tool that our students can work with throughout their careers as Roadrunners so they come out ready to contribute to their careers from day one.”
“As the use of AM proliferates in more and more industries, exposing our students to its applications throughout their degree programs is of growing importance,” Montoya added. “Whether students employ AM in their careers, a functional understanding of the practice is especially useful for engineers of the future.”
Four other mechanical engineering researchers at various levels are working on the project, including undergraduate students Tim Clairmontgraduate student Aaron Riosdoctoral candidate Juan Sebastien Rincon and postdoctoral fellow Mauricio Aristizabal.
Restrepo said he is always looking for new opportunities for students to engage in hands-on research as part of their studies.
“In my experience, all professors at UTSA are happy to involve students in their research projects,” he said. “If you are interested, stop by office hours or email a professor pursuing research that interests you.”
“Our students are provided with many opportunities to develop practical skills through experiential learning opportunities, such as this research project,” added JoAnn Browning, Dean of Klesse College. “Our new Makerspace and the technology it houses only enhances the potential for students to engage in unprecedented research and design opportunities, right from the first year of their undergraduate degrees.”