Additive manufacturing (AM) is making it possible to build complex parts faster through a simplified process. Not only does it allow for rapid iteration prototyping to optimize product design and development, it also improves structures for light-weighting, reducing weight and manufacturing costs all while retaining strength. In addition to making prototypes, the technology is also increasingly being used to produce fully functional parts for production, like 3D printed fuel nozzles in commercial planes.
While additive manufacturing confers the benefits of increased customization and part complexity, the risk of accumulating defects also increases. Since additive manufacturing builds each part layer by layer every time there can be high variability between finished parts. The printing process itself can also lead to unexpected deformations due to the melting process or removal of scaffolds. These issues can prove to be problematic for industries like aerospace, medical device, performance automotive, oil & gas, and defense, where strict tolerances and defect-free parts are required.
With various industries relying more on additive manufacturing, ensuring quality in finished products becomes even more important. As the technology moves into mainstream usage, providing quality 3D printed parts will be crucial for winning the trust of consumers and manufacturers. Inspection of these parts is therefore essential for maintaining acceptable dimensional tolerances and identifying defects. Any viable inspection method must also be able to keep up with the rapid pace and increased demands of additive manufacturing.
The Benefits of Industrial CT Scanning for Additive Manufacturing
For inspecting and validating internal geometry in 3D printed parts, industrial computed tomography (CT) is the optimal inspection method, offering numerous advantages over other testing methods.
Inspection of center region of 3D printed test bars for identifying internal porosity, prior to material and stress testing.
Industrial CT scanning is a nondestructive testing (NDT) method that utilizes advanced x-ray technology for 3D internal inspection. With additive manufacturing, destructive testing is simply not possible since it would mean destroying parts that are often unique. Traditional inspection techniques like tactile and optical inspection fall short as they can only inspect the surface of parts. Unlike these nondestructive techniques, CT is non-contact and can inspect translucent or reflective materials. Even other subsurface techniques like ultrasonic testing are unsuitable for the irregular and complex geometries of additive manufacturing.
As an advanced radiographic testing technique, computed tomography is a powerful tool for the quality management of manufactured 3D printed parts. Industrial CT provides quick inspection time with fewer material restrictions, making it especially suitable for rapid prototyping. The technology can inspect a wide range of materials, from polymers to metal alloys (aluminum, titanium, Inconel, etc.) of varying densities and thicknesses.
For industrial quality control of 3D printed parts and assemblies, computed tomography is useful for a number of applications, including:
- Accurate identification of defects like porosity, residual powders, cracks, and inclusions
- Precise inspection of internal and external features like wall thickness and fiber orientation
- Dimensional metrology for complex dimensional requirements and part to CAD/part comparisons
- Pre-production validation for FAI reporting, including PPAP and AS9102 requirements
- Validation of 3D printed test bars when establishing a production process
- 100% production part inspection to validate critical parts in must run conditions
Image: Wall thickness analysis performed by Jesse Garant Metrology Center. (Source: https://jgarantmc.com)
Our CT Scanning Services Advantage™
Jesse Garant Metrology Center is poised to support the additive manufacturing industry with the greatest diversity of industrial CT systems in North America. Our CT scanning services can be used during the manufacturing process to validate and qualify prototypes and dimensionally acceptable pre-production and production parts. By integrating our CT services with expert analytics, we provide timely, seamless, and cost-effective inspection while adhering to high levels of quality control. With investments in the latest machines and expert staff, we are primed to meet the inspection needs of industry and support both manufacturers and the growing 3D printing facilities of the future.
- Feasibility studies to tailor the inspection process to match each client’s specific needs
- Validation of alloy or plastic parts ranging from micro-printed parts to large format castings
- Inspection of 3D printed test bars for verifying initial geometry prior to material and stress testing
- Capacity to handle high volume inspection projects for additive manufacturing
- Ability to meet overcapacity needs for companies who already use CT scanning