UES was recently awarded a Phase I SBIR from the Air Force in the field of additive manufacturing by electron beam melting. Here, UES will obtain data to anchor process models for additive manufacture by electron beam melting (EBM). In this process, parts are made by scanning an electron beam in a raster defined by a CAD file over a powder bed such that powder is melted and resolidified to build a part layer-by-layer. While vendor-provided parameters will result in a part, first part yield can be low. Predictive modeling of optimum machine parameters for a given powder and varying part dimensions will increase first part yield.
In Phase I, we envisage a DOE (Design of Experiments) approach, varying key build parameters, for a selected set of part elements that would enable a better understanding of the process, and provide data to anchor models of the build process. This effort will be restricted to Ti:6Al:4V, the most mature alloy for the EBM process.
Our partner, CalRAM, Inc., is a veteran-owned small business and the premier commercial manufacturer of aerospace parts made by EBM in the USA. Modeling success will enable an improved first part yield for EBM manufacturers, for lot sizes of one to a few, and facilitate part qualification for aerospace. An improved yield is critical for commercially viable additive manufacturing.
Improved acceptance of additive manufacturing of metal parts for aerospace is predicated on reduced cost, resulting from fewer scrapped parts, and the metadata necessary for part qualification. Commercial application of this work may result in process modeling software for additive manufacturing foundries or machine manufacturers for incorporation into machine control software. Our approach could also be applied to other additive manufacturing methods.