If the printed components are ultimately to be used in highly demanding applications, certification of the 3D-printed items is essential. The requisite procedures for this have not yet been developed, which is why that objective is one of the key elements of the new programme.
“The most difficult aspect is being able to prove that you do know exactly what you’re doing,” says De Smit. “You have to be able to demonstrate that there are no flaws in the materials that could result in a product failing. You could do that with a CT scan, for example, but that’s time-consuming and expensive because every component has to be scanned. It is therefore very beneficial if detailed process monitoring is developed that enables detection of when material defects are created.”
De Smit also explains that monitoring the processes is not only about the direct knowledge of the materials and the process, but also about processing large quantities of data. “Monitoring systems are used to watch what is going on in the melt pool. A lot of information is generated during the production process. All that data ought to help us determine whether the process went well or not. In the future, we would also like to add artificial intelligence to the processes, for example so that any flaws that are detected can be repaired.”