With 3D metal printing still in its toddler stages, quality control still leaves a lot to be desired. Sigma Labs is one of the few companies publicly working to solve the problem of ensuring repeatable, predictable metal prints with their PrintRite3D technology. And, in recent news, the company’s contract with Honeywell Aerospace has been extended to use PrintRite3D in the development of an Integrated Computational Material Engineering (ICME) framework.
As part of a Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) project, the in process quality control technology will be utilized to anticipate the material properties of 3D printed metal parts. Through the internal inspection of computer generated components, PrintRite3D attempts to ensure the quality of products before printing is complete, as Sigma Labs CEO, Mark Cola, explained in an interview featured on 3DPI:
By inspecting product in-process as opposed to post-process, Sigma Labs can help its customers dramatically reduce their overall inspection costs by only inspecting product identified as suspect during the manufacturing process, aka inspection-for-cause. Therefore, our customers can begin to open up their production flow and allow only good product to continue on its way through the manufacturing process by using our PrintRite3D® technology as a discriminator to sort acceptable from suspect product. PrintRite3D® comprises COTS sensors and high-speed data acquisition hardware along with our proprietary, highly-sophisticated software algorithms to mine process data for relevant process-related features. PrintRite3D® does not directly inspect or detect defects, but rather it quantifies the conditions under which they may occur.
The predictive aspect of this system is what might help 3D metal printing become integrated into large-scale manufacturing. The contract extension with Honeywell is thought, by Sigma Labs, to generate up to $178,645 before the end of Q1, 2014, with Cola saying, “This contract extension further validates the importance of Sigma Labs’ PrintRite3D® technology in supporting our customer’s migration into 3D metal printing.”
When Sigma Labs was awarded a contract from Los Alamos Laboratory to aid in the destruction of US nuclear stockpiles, I applauded them for their peaceful means of turning a profit. I can’t applaud them this time for using their technology for DoD purposes, but further use of the company’s PrintRite3D system will certainly lead to an increase in overall additive manufacturing standards in the industry.