Quality Control of 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing Processes

February 21, 2016 ZEISS Microscopy

ZEISS light, electron and X-ray microscopes and software solutions are essential tools for quality control

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing is a new and promising method for the production of components in engineering. Its layer-by-layer build-up process offers a number of new production possibilities. Of special interest is the high geometric and constructive freedom. It is possible to build up near net shape components with complex geometries and integrated functional properties, such as curved cooling channels in drills. Besides microstructural defects that significantly degrade the usage properties of components, the challenges faced in additive manufacturing are: the high level of dimensional accuracy required; surface quality; and the construction of complex tools with inner structures like cooling channels.

Microscopy in additive manufacturing and 3D printing
Microscopy in additive manufacturing and 3D printing

Additive manufacturing revolutionizes the production of tools because, as a rapid prototyping technique, it allows the fabrication of 3D parts with complex geometry directly from metal, alloy or ceramic powders. The occurring microstructure of the components depends particularly on the powder characteristics, as well as the process conditions. Microscopic examinations of the generated components and their microstructures are required to understand the influence of process guiding and to control the requested quality.

 

Powder Characterization Using Optical Light and Scanning Electron Microscopy
Additive manufacturing is a powder-based process; the components are built up by CAD operated, layer by layer melting of the powder. Amongst other things, the properties of the tools produced in this way depend on the powder characteristics and microscopic methods are an adequate means of determining them. Light microscopes such as Axio Zoom.V16 enable particle size analysis (cf. Figure 1 a), b). The steel powder in Figure 1a) shows a monomodal particle size distribution, AlSi10 in contrast is distributed bimodally (Figure 1b). The morphology of the powders can be examined with the help of ZEISS scanning electron microscopy (cf. Figure 1 c, d). For example agglomerations and the roundness of the particles, which is necessary for a well flowing powder in the process, can be detected.

Figure 1 Micrographs of steel (316L) (a, c) and AlSi10 (b, d) Powders used for powder characterization; a, b) Light microscopy, transmitted light, bright field, 80×; c, d) SEM, SE, WD 10 mm, EHT 10 kV, 500×
Figure 1 Micrographs of steel (316L) (a, c) and AlSi10 (b, d) Powders used for powder characterization; a, b) Light microscopy, transmitted light, bright field, 80×; c, d) SEM, SE, WD 10 mm, EHT 10 kV, 500×

Interested in more applications? Download your free copy of the ZEISS Application Note “Applications of Microscopy in Additive Manufacturing Utilizing ZEISS Light and Electron Microscope Systems” here!

 

Fast Routine Investigation of Additive-manufactured Al-Si Samples with ZEISS ZEN 2 core Software
Quality control for additive-manufactured components requires checking and reviewing the structure and its dimensional accuracy. The ‘supervisor-operator’ structure of ZEISS ZEN 2 core allows the appropriate routine procedures to be created andexecuted quickly. Using ZEISS ZEN 2 core software, the ‘supervisor’ first creates the ‘job’ using a microscope – a ZEISS Axio Zoom.V16 microscope, for example. In this job, the ‘supervisor’ defines the steps necessary for investigating the manufactured samples and determines the current microscope and software settings. In order to conduct a routine sample analysis – for example, a quality-assurance analysis – the ‘operator’ calls up the stored ‘job’, which guides the ‘operator’ through the investigation, thereby guaranteeing comparability of results.

Figure 2: Analysis of additively manufactured AlSi-samples, embedded in a microsection. with ZEISS ZEN 2 core
Figure 2 Analysis of additively manufactured AlSi-samples, embedded in a microsection. with ZEISS ZEN 2 core

Interested in more details? Download your free copy of the ZEISS Application Note “ZEN 2 core – Fast Routine Investigation of Additive-manufactured Al-Si Samples” here! 

 

Digital evaluation and replication of period wind instruments: the role of micro-computed tomography and additive manufacturing
This project used ZEISS Xradia X-ray microscopy (XRM, or µCT) to study the anatomy of antique wind instruments and their ephemeral parts. The method permits measuring without applying physical tools to the specimen, with a precision of 1/1000mm, thereby reducing error. Robert Howe, Sina Shahbazmohamadi, Richard Bass and Prabhakar Singh from the University of Connecticut used data files to perform Additive Manufacture (AM) of ophicleide and saxophone mouthpieces and joints of a historic recorder; the foot-joint of the recorder was replicated with greater fidelity to the original than by standard artisanal methods. Novel details of the construction of a Charles Sax ophicleide mouthpiece, of an Adolphe Sax saxophone mouthpiece, and of two Triébert curved cors anglais were revealed for the first time. XRM with addivite manufacturing offers significant insights into the construction of woodwind instruments, permitting the researchers to replicate mouthpieces and small woodwind joints.

Digital evaluation and replication of period wind instruments: the role of micro-computed tomography and additive manufacturing. Early Music, Oxford Journals 2014
Figure 3 Digital evaluation and replication of period wind instruments: the role of micro-computed tomography and additive manufacturing. Early Music, Oxford Journals 2014

Read the Early Music publication at Oxford Journals! (subscription required)

 

Microscopy for emerging technologies: case studies of energy storage materials and 3D-printed components
The webinar recording discusses the application of high-resolution microscopy techniques including X-ray microscopy, optical microscopy, scanning electron and focused ion beam microscopy to the characterization and analysis of energy storage materials and components fabricated via selective laser melting (SLM). In a first part, Timo Bernthaler demonstrates how this array of techniques enables investigation of microstructural features at different scales, ranging from layer thickness, particle size and homogeneity in Lithium-ion batteries. This demonstrates how microscopy is increasingly becoming crucial to understanding aging and degradation mechanisms. In a second part, Tim Schubert introduces the principles of additive manufacturing via SLM and demonstrate how microscopy highlights the direct link between microstructural defects, e.g. pores or inhomogeneities in the microstructure of 3D-printed components fabricated with steel, aluminum and composites, thereby allowing for optimization of the fabrication process.

 

Can’t see the embedded video? Click here!

 

ZEISS would like to thank the Materials Research Institute at Aalen University, Germany (IMFAA), for their contributions and collaboration, particularly: Timo Bernthaler, Sandra Gorse, Joerg Maier, Gerhard Schneider, Tim Schubert, and Lisa Weissmayer.

Interested in our class-leading solutions for your application? Get in contact!

 

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