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#EBSstory Scientists follow additive manufacturing to discover defects


A consortium of ten different institutes has come to the ESRF’s ID19 beamline to exploit the X-rays to delve into additive manufacturing (AM) processes as they take place. The goal is to gather information about process optimization during AM in order to improve the end product. 

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Additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, is a process of creating three-dimensional objects from digital models by adding successive layers of material. AM allows not only to perform rapid proto-typing but also to print or repair complex structures not accessible by traditional manufacturing techniques. It is revolutionizing the way we create and design objects. 

However, ensuring the quality and accuracy of printed parts is crucial, particularly for applications in critical industries such as aerospace and health care. Challenges remain in terms of quality control as printed structures made from metal can contain defects such as pores, high surface roughness and inhomogeneous mechanical properties: all widely related to significantly faster heating and cooling rates compared to traditional manufacturing. Non-destructive imaging of the internal microstructure and eventual defects while parts are printed and under service-relevant conditions is essential.

Synchrotron X-rays are the ideal tool to obtain high-resolution imaging of the inner architecture and properties of printed parts. Manas V Upadhyay, a scientist from Ecole Polytechnique (France) and member of the consortium explains: “The ESRF-EBS, with its high photon flux and high energy, allows us to study the materials as they are made and at very high frame rates”.

At the ESRF, researchers can gain insights into the behaviour of materials under extreme conditions, such as high temperatures and mechanical loads, which is important for optimizing AM processes, materials and components. They can also study the underlying mechanisms of the printing process and improve our understanding of how to create high quality printed parts.

The experiments are highly challenging, as they require complex in situ environments, so some teams in the consortium have developed rigs for in situ studies. “These are complicated to set up for single experiments at a time, so we thought that if we join forces in the form of an Additive Manufacturing Hub, we can access the ESRF’s beamlines in a more effective way and we will have a pool of knowledge from the expertise of each group”, explains Upadhyay.

The expertise of the consortium goes from alloy development, simulations, building process replicators to materials research. For that purpose, a hub proposal is now under preparation for early 2024, with the aim to seek regular access to beamlines for AM studies performed by the consortium that include in situ investigations and imaging of full-size components. In parallel, the consortium is submitting grant proposals to support the research onsite actively, including the in situ rigs as well as the data processing routines needed.

The consortium includes AM experts from  the Institute of Materials Research of the German Aerospace Center DLR, University College London (UK), IMDEA Materials (Spain), University of Kassel (Germany), SIMAP laboratory (France), Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (Europe), Ilmenau University of Technology (Germany), University of Manchester (UK), Paul Scherrer Institute (Switzerland), Ecole Polytechnique (France), the ILL SALSA instrument and it is supported by the ESRF.