In anticipation of the expansion of its 3D printing service and the grand opening of its new facility, Proto Labs Inc. has chosen Concept Laser to be the anchor of its metal additive manufacturing center. Proto Labs will integrate multiple Mlab cusing and M2 cusing machines into its 77,000ft2 facility later this year. The LaserCusing technology will add to its existing portfolio of industrial 3D printing, CNC machining, and injection molding processes.

rp+m has selected Concept Laser’s M2 cusing metal additive machine to strengthen its research & development competencies. The M2 cusing will be a critical technology that will allow rp+m to develop innovative applications for its clients, due to the open architecture which enables alloy development and parameter editing.

rp+m has extensive experience in developing applications, materials, and processes for printing in metals, plastics, and ceramic materials. rp+m was also the first to successfully manufacture collimators for medical device imaging using printed tungsten.

“rp+m is always seeking ways to be more innovative and capitalize on a first-mover opportunity. Our job is to find the right solution for our clients – and in many cases, that solution doesn’t yet exist. We need the ability to print with both reactive and non-reactive materials, develop proprietary alloys, and adjust parameters to produce the most efficient and effective parts for our customer base. The Concept Laser technology exceeds our expectations in every area,” says rp+m President and CTO Dr. Tracy Albers.

LaserCusing systems can use a variety of alloys, allowing prototypes to be functional hardware made out of the same material as production components. www.protolabs.com, www.rpplusm.com, www.conceptlaserinc.com

Pitt receives grant to develop fast computational modeling for 3D printing

The supporting structures failed for these fatigue test bars. Stress buildup in the longer length created excessive curling forces on the outer edges of the support structures, resulting in fracture.
Photo credit: Albert To/Swanson School of Engineering

As additive manufacturing (AM) becomes more commonplace, researchers and industry are seeking to mitigate the distortions and stresses inherent in fabricating these complex geometries. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering and Pittsburgh-based manufacturer Aerotech Inc. recently received a $350,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to address these design issues by developing fast, new computational methods for additive manufacturing.

The proposal, “Novel Computational Approaches to Address Key Design Optimization Issues for Metal Additive Manufacturing,” is a three-year award from Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry funded by the NSF’s Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation.

“The ability to create geometrically complex shapes through additive manufacturing is both a tremendous benefit and a significant challenge,” says Associate Professor and Principal Investigator Albert To. “Optimizing the design to compensate for residual distortion, residual stress, and post-machining requirements can take days or even months for these parts.”

To mitigate these challenges, Dr. To and his group will develop a simple yet accurate thermomechanics model to predict residual stress and distortion in an AM part. Next, they will develop a topology optimization method capable of generating designs with both free-form surfaces and machining-friendly surfaces. According to Dr. To, this will compensate for the geometric complexity and organic nature of AM parts, which contribute to their potential for distortion and post-machining problems. These approaches will then be developed and tested using real parts and design requirements provided by Aerotech. www.engineering.pitt.edu, www.aerotech.com