Imaging Software For the Evaluation of 3D Printed Metal Parts 

Published on March 7, 2022 by Madeleine P.
The new imaging software identifies defects

As 3D printing becomes more widely used, and final parts become more readily available, there is an increasing need to assess the quality of parts designed through additive manufacturing. For that reason, researchers at Nanyang Technological University Singapore (NTU Singapore) have developed a new imaging method that could be used to identify the exact properties and characteristics of 3D printed metal parts. By analyzing the amount of material in the part and determining its microstructure, this new application of NTU could prove extremely beneficial in a number of industries, including but not limited to automotive and aerospace, where 3D printing is often used to design even end-use parts.

The main advantages of NTU’s imaging method are probably the speed of evaluation it offers as well as its cost. Matteo Seita, assistant professor at NTU, explained, “Using our inexpensive and fast-imaging method, we can easily tell good 3D-printed metal parts from the faulty ones. Currently, it is impossible to tell the difference unless we assess the material’s microstructure in detail. No two 3D-printed metal parts are created equal, even though they may have been produced using the same technique and have the same geometry. Conceptually, this is akin to how two otherwise identical wooden artefacts may each possess a different grain structure.”

Matteo Seita, assistant professor at NTU and a 3D printed metal part. (Photo credits: NTU Singapore)

A Solution to Accelerate the Certification of Parts?

While current methods of part analysis, based on the use of scanning electron microscopes, cost between $73,000 and $1.5 million, NTU’s imaging software would provide similar results for $18,400, according to the university’s researchers. Accompanied by his team, Matteo Seita explains that their imaging process offers the ability to determine the properties of the metals used as well as the strength of the part. All this in 15 minutes. To do this, the scientists use an optical camera, a lamp and a computer with imaging software.

After coating the 3D printed part with chemicals, the lamp illuminates the metal while the optical camera captures several images. Once this step is completed, the software developed by the NTU analyzes the numerous microscopic crystals that make up the part and are responsible for its properties. Much faster and less expensive than conventional methods, this imaging method could be used by organizations in charge of certifying 3D printed parts. You can find out more in the paper HERE.

Photo Credits: NTU Singapore

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