DARPA project willl advance metal 3D printing by improving speed, cost and repeatability

The third and final phase of the DARPA Open Manufacturing program is slated to begin before year’s end, and will continue through to mid-2018. The DARPA OM program seeks to develop an Integrated Computational Material Engineering framework that can accurately predict the properties of 3D printed metal components.

DARPA indicates that uncertainties in materials and component manufacturing processes are a primary cause of cost escalation and delay during the development, testing and early production of defense systems.” Despite extensive testing, DARPA reports that fielded military platforms often suffer unanticipated performance problems. “These uncertainties and performance problems are often the result of the random variations and non-uniform scaling of manufacturing processes.”

In other words, a material’s physical properties change according to different manufacturing methods. When 3D printed, for instance, metal behaves differently than it would through conventional manufacturing processes. If not accounted for properly, the result can be unpredictable, leading to unforeseen performance problems.

If successful, Open Manufacturing will reduce barriers to innovation in manufacturing, and expand the Defense manufacturing base by establishing methodologies for affordable, rapid, adaptable manufacturing with comprehensive design, simulation and processing tools and exposure to best practices. The resulting framework, through greater process understanding and control, would allow new manufacturing processes to be more readily transferred from the laboratory to the shop floor.

DARPA launched the Open Manufacturing program as a means to lower costs and expedite the delivery of high-quality manufactured goods with stable, predictable performance. This can be done by creating “a manufacturing framework that captures factory-floor and materials processing variability and integrates probabilistic computational tools, informatics systems, and rapid qualification approaches.”

With its swift advance into the final phase of the DARPA OM program, Sigma Labs has announced that it has officially achieved the quality assurance that the Defense Department is looking for when using 3D printed metal. After completing Phase I and II in 2014 and earlier in 2016 respectively, Sigma Labs is ploughing steadily ahead.

Sigma Labs of Santa Fe, New Mexico has a new contract with Honeywell Aerospace. The project extends work with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) as part of the Open Manufacturing (OM) program. Sigma Labs were founded in 2005 by scientists from the renowned Los Alamos National Lab.

Valued at $400k, the contract will see Sigma Labs continue to work on their PrintRite3D® technology. Mark Cola, President and CEO of Sigma Labs explains,

PrintRite3D® technology enables rapid manufacturing processes such as laser-based 3D printing for precision metal components. Through this award, they will have the opportunity to demonstrate how their PrintRite3D® software can be a key enabler for developing quality assurance standards for metal AM aerospace components.