In our first article on the International Conference on 3D printing in India, Dr. Das highlighted the need for qualifications and certifications to increase the growth and adoption of additive manufacturing (AM) in India. The development of new materials and technological processes requires rigorous testing, simulation, and validation to guarantee their performance under various conditions, such as extreme temperature and pressure.
Expanding on the subject, Dr. Shirish .S. Kale, Director, Centre for Military Airworthiness & Certification (CEMILAC), Defense R&D Organization (DRDO), Government of India said, “In aerospace and defense, we embrace 3D printed parts with unwavering confidence. Rigorous certification and qualification processes ensure their reliability and precision, heralding a secure and innovative future for our industry.”
Dr. Kale shed light on CEMILAC’s use of 3D printing technology and the importance of certifications and qualifications in the AM sector.
CEMILAC drives forward additive manufacturing in India
Over the years, CEMILAC has evolved its procedures to ensure design and test adequacy, fulfilling its primary responsibility for all military air helicopter systems in the country. With its facilities in Hyderabad and Bangalore, CEMILAC has successfully indigenized and certified over 100 metal alloys, polymers, and composite products for military projects, intending to leverage this ecosystem for AM materials. A dedicated chapter within the Military Airworthiness Certification Framework document explains the design, development, production, and certification of military air systems and airborne stores. This document was unveiled by India’s Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, in 2021.
Dr. Kale highlights that CEMILAC made “significant strides” by collaborating with the engineering force, resulting in the production of the first 3D printed non-critical part in 2019. This part was subsequently qualified and certified, and it is currently in use in a military aircraft. In 2020, CEMILAC also followed the same procedure for certifying 3D printed components.
This procedure marks a significant step forward in the certification of non-critical component development. While these components are considered non-critical, their quality is not compromised. The materials used in this process have received certification through material selection provided by CEMILAC. In addition, CEMILAC has further advanced by establishing a qualification test framework for certifying 3D printed components, along with machine and material qualification processes, post-processing, and part qualification. To facilitate these developments, CEMILAC entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with ASTM International in December 2022.
“For critical part certification, similar approaches are used for raw material process development and initial upper-level testing. In 3D printing, process variability and material performance are vital. Statistical process control monitoring is essential for assessing mechanical and other properties, serving as the final statistical checkpoint,” added Dr. Kale.
Bridging the gap between academia and industry to advance 3D printing
In its efforts, CEMILAC is actively engaged in the development of parts, collaborating closely with institutions such as the Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) and MITs, with their research supported by DRDO funding. It is noteworthy that academia possesses significant infrastructure for material testing, often underutilized by micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). This collaborative effort not only strengthens ties between industry and academia but also facilitates reciprocal learning. MSMEs, in particular, stand to benefit by tapping into the advanced facilities of institutions like IITs, seeking counsel from domain experts, all while receiving certification support from CEMILAC. Additionally, academia extends its expertise to startups and incubation centers through industry-backed initiatives.
Dr. Kale highlighted the model of collaboration and its relevance in advancing 3D printing technology. While numerous R&D organizations and Centers of Excellence (CoE) house abundant knowledge resources, there exists a “disconnect between this reservoir of knowledge and the industrial sector.” To propel ‘Make in India‘ onto the global stage, standardizing processes and materials is deemed imperative.
DRDO’s roadmap to enhance Indian AM sector
Dr. T. Ram Prabhu, Joint Director, Regional Centre of Military Airworthiness (RCMA), CEMILAC – DRDO Laboratory explained DRDO’s roadmap and activities carried out with the Indian Air Force (IAF.) He first emphasized the importance of the powder reuse strategy, covering aspects like allowable powder reuse, methodology, property variations, and certification criteria. These points should be reinforced in the AM sector through collaboration between industry experts and academia, he said. Academic researchers, working alongside organizations like DRDO and others, can focus on material reuse to address issues such as contamination, moisture, particle size distribution, storage conditions, and more.
Dr. Prabhu elaborated on how qualification and certification processes offer potential enhancements to productivity. Depending on component geometry, the 3D printing of parts typically requires several days. To expedite this, employing multiple high-powered lasers can be considered, maintaining safety and reliability standards. Additionally, harnessing machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) allows for process optimization, comprehensive understanding of process parameters, and real-time sensor data utilization to detect anomalies, focusing on surface roughness and microstructures. The utilization of generative design software can facilitate the creation of innovative designs tailored for AM, offering various advantages in terms of weight reduction and enhanced performance, as highlighted by the Joint Director.
Lastly, lattice structures should also be an important focus of the AM sector. As per his insights, these structures offer “tremendous potential” for various applications, enhancing properties such as damping capacity, crashworthiness, stiffness, and thermal conductivity. Furthermore, they effectively reduce weight due to their inherent anti-structural nature. “This research area has good potential for reproduction of the non-vertical structure in typical aircraft,” concluded Dr. Prabhu.
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Featured image shows CEMILAC headquarters. Photo via CEMILAC.