Additive Manufacturing (A.M.) is one of the most exciting developments in manufacturing that we have ever seen. The technology is so new, and there are so many very capable people and companies working on solutions and new methods, that keeping up with all of its different aspects is a bit like herding cats. The 2022 Houston ASM Seminar: Additive Manufacturing: Achievements and Standards of a Fascinating New Technology, which we attended, served as a source for this article. As the standards for this new technology emerge, calibration of manufacturing equipment and instrumentation remains a critical requirement for product quality.
The rapidly growing arena of Additive Manufacturing in the manufacturing industry raises concerns about the lack of standardization because there are so many new techniques being developed simultaneously. In our industry, when we produce flanges for use in a refinery or oilfield, we have standards to consult, depending upon whether we want to make the flanges from castings, machine them from bar stock, or use forged flanges. There are established industry guidelines specifying which material grades can be used in certain applications, what those strength levels must be, and how we substantiate that our product in fact meets those requirements. We can then sell those flanges to our customers referencing those standards so that they know we have provided products suitable for their application.
We have specifications for forgings, castings, tubing, cold and hot rolled steel, and many others that specify the chemical composition and manufacturing processes used to meet certain performance levels.
Additive manufacturing of metal components is so new and developing so rapidly, that we do not yet have all of the industry-wide specifications to guide (and regulate) the manufacture of these items. However, ASTM does have some published standards for additive manufacturing applications, design, materials and processes, terminology, and test methods. They will continue to expand their additive manufacturing standards as the field continues to grow. There is no doubt whatsoever that parts made using A.M. technology can be equal to, and in some cases superior to, parts made by more conventional methods.
Thermo-Temp is staying abreast of the latest developments in additive manufacturing. Contact Thermo-Temp for advice and consultation about your additive manufacturing project requirements.
Just like not everyone finishes school with a perfect 4.0-grade average, not every manufacturer will be able to produce near-perfect parts. The industry continues to develop standards and specifications that consider the A.M. method of manufacture and provide those guidelines specifying which materials can be used in certain applications, what those strength levels must be, and how we substantiate that our product in fact meets those requirements.
Those standards and specifications in our industry not only guide us to produce high-quality, safe products but also provide us backup in case of a failure or incident. Often, having followed the standard’s requirements may be all the proof that we need as to the suitability and integrity of our product.
As we move into more extensive production in the A.M. industry, we need to acknowledge the need for consistency in our manufacturing processes and documentation of our process performance. To do this, we need to be able to substantiate that the prototype part we made and tested is verifiably the qualifying part for our production run. We must have documented control of the chemistry and condition of the deposited material prior to forming. We must have documented control of the fusing energy used, the rate of deposition, the temperature of the material at the point of fusion, the cooling rate the part is subjected to after forming, and any thermal processing performed (either as a part of the forming operation, or post process).
Calibration is an important aspect of this substantiation. In this new industry, when standards have not been fully developed, it behooves us to be prudent and identify critical aspects of the A.M. process we are using and provide proof that we know exactly what we did and how we did it. Portions of the process that affect the outcome of the finished product should be subject to calibration and documentation. These records will help as industry leaders rush to formulate the new standards we need. They will also protect us by providing a clear record of the quality of our product.
Additionally, they will provide us economic protection against those of lower integrity that might cut corners and provide sub-standard products, doing harm to this new industry and possibly to members of the public.
Thermo-Temp has been providing calibration and peace of mind to our customers for over 40 years. We are staying at the forefront of the Additive Manufacturing sector with the goal of providing the manufacturers and their customers the peace of mind that comes with being able to absolutely substantiate that their product is made by adhering to established, repeatable, and verifiable processes and procedures.
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