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Spotlight: Getting Familiar With the Lifespan of 3D-Printed Parts

microscopic, cross-section view of a defect within a 3D-printed titanium part
Credit: N. Hrabe/NIST

All manufactured materials have defects that can ultimately lead to their failure. But even with that known truth, people are turning away from a new manufacturing technique at the first sign of defects, precisely because of its newness. NIST and nine other scientific institutions around the globe want to combat the distrust.
Additive manufacturing — building up a 3D shape from thin layers of metal powder (or other material), each melted into place by a laser or electron beam — is a practice spreading across industries with good reason. More complex designs are possible than ever before. 

We can make parts lighter for more fuel-efficient cars and aerospace vehicles. 

We can shorten a lengthy manufacturing process into one or two steps.

We can cut down on wasted materials by only using what we need for a specific part’s shape.

But we can’t take full advantage of these capabilities yet. 

A lack of familiarity with this budding revolution currently keeps manufacturers from using it for the critical parts that keep people safe (in cars and airplanes, for example). It’s a valid concern when poor performance puts lives at risk. 

That’s why traditional manufacturing methods have well-established frameworks to predict the lifespan of materials and components. Unfortunately, these existing frameworks don’t apply to additive manufacturing, which has its own set of challenges to match its unique process. 

To bolster confidence, researchers from NIST and institutions in Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and the Czech Republic have proposed a modified framework to predict lifespan in additive manufacturing. Read through the paper, published in Progress in Materials Science.

Collaborators include: Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung (BAM), INSA-Lyon, University Kassel, Coventry University, Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, University of Padova, COMTES FHT, Fraunhofer-Institut für Betriebsfestigkeit and Politecnico di Milano.

Also, find out more about the NIST program in additive manufacturing fatigue and fracture.

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Released April 26, 2021, Updated June 9, 2021