From medical implants to aircraft turbines there is a wide range of potential applications for industrial 3D printed metal parts. At the Control trade fair in Stuttgart, Germany ZEISS presented metrology and microscopy solutions for increasing the number of in-spec parts and revenue in a special Additive Manufacturing area.
“We assume that an increasing number of critical components will be manufactured with 3D printing. Efficiency depends largely on how well companies understand and monitor the additive manufacturing process chain,” says Dr. Claus Hermannstädter, who is responsible for Strategy and Business Development at the ZEISS Industrial Metrology business group. “Laying the foundation for the necessary process expertise generally requires years of investment.” In Hermannstädter’s experience, detailed analyses of materials and processes can significantly reduce the number of iteration loops. At Control, ZEISS is presenting a number of solutions that provide a more in-depth understanding of upstream and downstream 3D printing processes and enable companies to closely monitor them.
Before printing: microscopes for material inspection
One important issue for quality assurance is powder characterization, because the powder bed fusion process requires the use of powders with very strict specifications concerning size, shape and material properties. ZEISS is demonstrating how users can employ light and electron microscopes to conveniently inspect the quality of the metal powder in use. “In order to speed up these inspections, ZEISS has developed correlative techniques that bridge the gap between light and electron microscopy and give customers a better understanding of the material characteristics,” says Dr. Robert Zarnetta, who is responsible for Industrial Applications at the ZEISS Microscopy business group.
After printing: solutions for defect detection and process optimization
In addition to microscopes, ZEISS will is also presenting optical 3D scanners, CT scanners, high-resolution X-ray microscopes and coordinate measuring machines for detecting printing defects as well as downstream processing problems. For Zarnetta, the CT scanners showcased at the special Additive Manufacturing area are especially well-suited for checking the interior structure of components and identifying defects or dimensional errors. Suitable optical and X-ray-based systems can be used to inspect the outer and interior surfaces.
According to Hermannstädter, comparing the measurement data acquired across all manufacturing steps allows companies to more quickly determine if downstream processes, including heat treatment and removing components from the build plate, affect the part’s final dimensional characteristics. This information assists with optimizing the entire manufacturing process.
Spanning all stages of production: ZEISS PiWeb
In addition to the broad hardware portfolio from ZEISS, Hermannstädter and Zarnetta emphasize that software also plays a key role in additive manufacturing: the quality data management software ZEISS PiWeb enables all information to be correlated and statistically evaluated across the entire process chain. “At Control, ZEISS is demonstrating how users can build on their experiences in the traditional manufacturing environment with ZEISS PiWeb software in order to speed up additive manufacturing process development and hence improve overall performance,” says Hermannstädter.
For more information: www.zeiss.com