3D METAL PRINTING CREATES PARTNERSHIPS
Picture this: a very important metal part on a NASA space station breaks and instead of having to wait for the part to get sent from Earth, the astronauts are able to print the piece right there in space. This is becoming a reality thanks to the work of the Alliance for the Development of Additive Processing Technologies (ADAPT). This unique partnership of academic, industry and government institutions is focused on developing technologies to accelerate the certification and qualification of 3D-printed metal parts.
ADAPT is a partnership between Mines, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Faustson Tool, Lockheed Martin, Citrine Informatics and most recently, Confluent Medical Technologies and Sinter Print. A $2.5 million grant from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) was provided to Manufacturer’s Edge to establish the physical headquarters and fund the first year of research and technical efforts.
Another ADAPT innovation is the equipment that is being used to improve nickel-based and titanium-based alloy 3D printing, including a new Zeiss Xradia 520 Versa 3D X-ray microscope. This microscope makes big images of these tiny 3D printed pieces and allows researchers to ask the questions: where might this piece fail? How can we tune the printer to make this and every part better, more consistent and more repeatable?
“We are the first university in the world to have bought one,” said Aaron Stebner, ADAPT’s technical director and mechanical engineering assistant professor. “The only other one in the U.S. is at the Naval Research Laboratory.”
The microscope will standardize, assess, and optimize advanced manufacturing processes and parts, putting Mines and ADAPT at the forefront of this newly-emerged technology. 3D metal printing will be most useful in places where extra storage of parts isn’t possible – think in underwater submarines and space.
“With this center we have the foundation for making Colorado the center of the world for metal additive manufacturing expertise, and Colorado manufacturers have first access to groundbreaking research,” said Tom Bugnitz, ADAPT's executive director and CEO of Manufacturer’s Edge.
This research stems from the $126 million in non-government grants awarded to Mines researchers during the Transforming Lives campaign. More than 90% of those grants were written by faculty and staff. Securing research funding creates a robust learning environment for Mines students and adds to the prestige of the university. Cutting-edge research propels Mines ahead to become one of the leading STEM and applied sciences universities in the world. Thank you to our dedicated faculty and staff who play the most vital role in advancing the university.