The University of Michigan has created new software that decreases dangerous heat buildup in the laser powder bed fusion printers, making 3D printing more capable of generating complex metal and plastic parts.
In a recent research, a piece of software called SmartScan improved heat distribution by 41% and reduced deformations by 47%.
Printing will go more quickly, too, as printers would have to slow down less to aid with cooling, and heat-related errors will be easier to catch and fix after printing.
To build items that are too complex to be made with conventional manufacturing, 3D printing uses laser powder bed fusion (LPBF). A laser is used to join metal or plastic powder layers. Deformation and other faults may result from the laser’s heat building up in the delicate pieces that are being printed.
According to Chinedum Okwudire, associate professor in mechanical engineering and author, “this issue grows much more significant for components with particularly thin characteristics. You have to be very careful with how you shift the laser around since the heat doesn’t even have a lot of area to expand.
When scanning a part, SmartScan looks at how heat moves through the part and maps an efficient scan sequence to reduce the amount of heat accumulated. It examines the part’s form and the material’s thermal qualities, including heat transport by conduction and convection.
Printing patterns have been varied by others in the field, for example by skipping between areas or switching across vertical and horizontal scanning directions, in an effort to minimise heat. In contrast, Okwudire claims that SmartScan is the very first method to employ a thermal model to steer the laser in such a way that heat is distributed equally.
Incorporating science into the process, Okwudire asserted, “allows you to do it better and work even for the most delicate sections.”
A laser was used to imprint the same pattern upon 2 stainless steel plates to test the initial iteration of SmartScan. The first plate was printed using the SmartScan method, while the second plate was printed using more conventional printing methods. This approach consistently exhibited less warping and a more constant heat distribution than other methods.
As a consequence of the trial, the team believes that they can adapt SmartScan to manufacture whole 3D parts with additional study. Improved thermal modelling and real-time temperature data utilising an infrared camera will be used to improve the software’s ability to update scan sequences in the middle of a print job.
OKWUDIRE: “The findings are really promising, and we’ve had a lot of great comments.” Okwudire has begun to show the programme to industry partners. ” “In the end, we opted for a basic model since it performs better than the current methods of trial and error. It was important to us to focus on something that was practical and had the potential to make a real difference.”