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R&D project gives 100% production quality assurance

3T RPD Ltd is working with a number of partners on the AssureNet project to develop an automated non-destructive inspection process for their metal Additive Manufactured components. The AssureNet project is funded by the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI) reference number (36409-233576). Another project partner and end user, Advanced Laser Technology Ltd (ALT Laser), will also use the process on their parts.

One of the longest established and most widely used non-destructive techniques for volumetric examination of components is radiography; a technique which uses X-rays or gamma-rays to produce an image or series of images that shows differences in thickness, density, material and defects. Radiography enables the end user to inspect parts in a non-destructive manner with little operator input. This project will use stereo-radiography, which combines two separate radiographs taken from different angles into one image to give a three-dimensional effect. This allows defects to be identified, and their location within the part to be calculated.

The automated in-line micron resolution stereographic imaging system will use a conveyor belt to move parts through a stereoradiography set-up. This will enable the whole part to be imaged to identify any internal or external defects such as porosity, internal cracks and microstructural defects, along with their location. It will also be used to verify internal geometries and dimensions to ensure the parts have been built accurately as per the CAD data. A defect library will be used to characterise potential defects and parts will be sorted on a three-pronged criteria of pass, fail or rework/concession.

The detection of any defects and cracks will enable corrective action to be taken prior to the parts being sent to the customer, so as not to affect their strength and functionality. The system will also detect any trapped powder inside the parts, enabling its removal prior to despatch. This will be of particular benefit to the medical market, as the removal of the powder from implants is imperative to ensure their safety for the recipient patient.

This post-process will give customers 100% production quality assurance in the parts supplied by both end users. The project will run until early 2018, but as part of the initial phase existing metal demo parts that have been built using 3T’s metal Additive Manufacturing process have been imaged by TWI Ltd (one of the project partners) to provide a benchmark for the final system and the results have identified cracks and trapped powder:-

(L) Gear Box Housing showing crack beneath surface of top left wall (R) Heat Exchanger showing trapped powder inside the cavities

(L) Gear Box Housing showing crack beneath surface of top left wall
(R) Heat Exchanger showing trapped powder inside the cavities

Project partners involved with AssureNet are:-