Real-Time Laser Control for Powder Bed Fusion

Physical Sciences : Mechanical

Available for licensing

Inventors

  • Scott Fish, Ph.D. , University of Texas at Austin
  • Timothy Phillips , Advanced Manufacturing Center
  • Austin McElroy , Biomedical Engineering

Background/unmet need

Present laser control in powder bed fusion processes used in additive manufacturing utilize an open loop controller, in which the energy deposition is constant. These processes have limited control over temperature distribution and do not account for medium conditions of an area before it is struck with a laser. Lack of precision in these aspects leads to the production of inconsistent machine parts with sub-optimal quality. Continuous inconsistencies increase the costs of manufacturing by requiring more materials in order to reproduce failed builds or parts.

Increased efficiency and reduction of failed builds are necessary for the growing demand of products created by additive manufacturing and selective laser sintering. To manufacture parts with greater quality and consistency, a systematic process needs to be implemented, in which variable energy deposition is allowed and analysis of a target area is quickly conducted prior to laser contact.

Invention Description

Researchers at The University of Texas developed a closed loop control method that allows for high-precision temperature control of a target medium for powder bed fusion in real time. The closed loop scheme is based on a feed-forward method in which sensor data provides known conditions of a medium before laser arrival at that area. Analysis of individual area conditions of a medium allows for derivation of the appropriate power needed to convert the temperature of the designated area to the desired temperature. This method allows for control over constant or spatially varying temperature in the resulting build, ultimately leading to greater consistency and higher quality produced parts.

Benefits/Advantages

  • Allows for creation of higher quality parts
  • Greater consistency among produced parts
  • Increases efficiency of part production
  • Reduces the opportunity for failed builds and parts
  • Reduces production costs by eliminating the need for reproduction of failed builds and parts

Features

  • Employs proprietary software that utilizes sensor data for laser energy deposition control
  • Closed loop scheme allows for variable energy deposition for powder bed fusion
  • Analysis of individual areas of a medium allow for temperature adjustments
  • Real-time high-precision temperature and laser control
  • Applicable to constant or spatially varying temperatures
  • Applicable to a variety of additive manufacturing processes

Market potential/applications

Persistence Market Research reports that the global additive manufacturing market value is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18% to 22% during the period 2015-2025. Additionally, an Allied Market Research report on 3D printing predicts that selective laser sintering and fused deposition modeling will be the most demanded additive manufacturing techniques in the future as markets grow and technology becomes cheaper. The increasing demand for additive manufacturing and 3D printing in automotive, manufacturing, and healthcare industries is attributed to the design of complex parts and finished goods. Enhanced additive manufacturing processes are ideal for fabricating these intricate products in that it is applicable to a variety of materials, such as plastics, metal alloys, rubber, and ceramics.

Development Stage

Lab/bench prototype

IP Status

  • 1 U.S. patent application filed