Quality assurance software developer Sigma Labs has been awarded a contract by aerospace and defense contractor Lockheed Martin for its PrintRite3D in-process quality assurance technology to support its space division. The announcement prompted Sigma’s share price to rocket by 128 percent, signifying strong interest from investors in light of the news.
At Lockheed Martin’s Additive Design and Manufacturing Center in Sunnyvale, California, the firm’s team will assess the viability and performance of Sigma’s PrintRite3D technology to support various defense and civil space programs.
“After review of our needs and potential solutions, we selected the Sigma PrintRite3D system because of its robust analysis capabilities, quality assurance solutions, data capture technology, and scalability across various OEM 3D printing platforms,” said Kristi Farley, Vice President Spacecraft and Missile Engineering at Lockheed Martin Space.
“Assurance of print quality and repeatability is essential to the critical missions that we support.
Lockheed Martin’s space division
Having long sought to “print the path to Mars”, Lockheed Martin’s 3D printed parts have traveled as far as Jupiter and are currently used within NASA’s Orion crewed spacecraft, on military satellites, and in missiles.
The firm has previously utilized additive manufacturing to produce 3D printed domes for high-pressure fuel tanks onboard satellites as part of a multi-year development program to create giant, all-mission capable satellite buses, known as the LM 2100 series. In 2017, the company invested $350 million in a state-of-the-art satellite production facility, complete with industrial grade 3D printers and “virtual immersion environments.”
Lockheed Martin’s Additive Design and Manufacturing Center became the first to achieve its UL 3400 certification for additive manufacturing in 2018, having met all the safety and hazard-mitigation procedures for the use and handling of 3D printers, powdered materials, and overall facility operation laid out in the certification.
Last year, the company was awarded $89.7 million as part of NASA’s Tipping Point Program for an experimental cryogenic fluid management system mission, which it plans to build and design itself with help from NASA and its partners. Lockheed Martin opted to sub-contract 3D printed rocket manufacturer Relativity Space as the launch provider for the mission, to optimize design flexibility and building speed of the launch vehicle.
PrintRite3D quality assurance technology
PrintRite3D is Sigma Labs’ flagship product and has proven to be one of the firm’s key growth-drivers over the past year. The PrintRite service consists of hardware and software modules that provide users with quality assurance and in-process monitoring capabilities.
The platform combines inspection, feedback, data collection, and critical analysis to discover potential anomalies, using sensor data and other required hardware to collect real-time data during 3D printing. The system then deploys machine learning in tandem with developed metrics to map those metrics to the post-process data. The technology can also be scaled up to meet the requirements of multi-laser systems.
The viability and performance of PrintRite3D in aiding Lockheed martin to support various defense and civil space programs will be assessed at the Additive Design and Manufacturing Center, as part of the initial contract between the partners.
“We are extremely pleased to welcome Lockheed Martin’s Space Additive Design and Manufacturing Center as a Sigma Labs customer,” said Mark Ruport, President and CEO of Sigma Labs. “It’s gratifying that they recognize the commitment our company has made to supporting the entire additive manufacturing industry with innovative in-process quality solutions.”
Sigma Labs launched its updated PrintRite3D Production Series in April last year, and has since established multiple partnerships to strengthen its customer base.
In October 2020, the company formed a strategic alliance with advanced manufacturing firm IN4.OS to deploy its PrintRite3D technology within IN4.OS’ “Smart Factories of the Future” initiative.
Around the same time, Sigma entered into a collaboration with Northwestern University to validate PrintRite3D for DED powder blown 3D printing processes, and at the beginning of this year was chosen to provide a melt pool monitoring system for longstanding partner DMG MORI’s LASTERTEC range of SLM machines using its PrintRite3D platform.
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Featured image shows Lockheed Martin commercial satellites in space. Image via Lockheed Martin.