Clemson University project aims to create AI-based ‘digital lifecycle platform’ to speed AM development

March 8, 2021

Left to right: Clemson professors Srikanth Pilla, Fadi Abdeljawad and Gang Li (Courtesy Clemson University)

Researchers at Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, USA, will receive funding from the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Army Research Laboratory (ARL) to assist the creation of new technology aimed at speeding up the development process of new additively manufactured components for future ground vehicles, air platforms and munitions.

The researchers plan to create a ‘digital lifecycle platform’ augmented with Artificial Intelligence as part of the project. The concept of the platform is to help production engineers more quickly and inexpensively design, analyse and fabricate a wide range of large, complex geometry components with embedded multi-functionalities for achieving overall size, weight, power and cost (SWaP-C) efficiencies. Once fully developed, the platform will reportedly allow engineers to design and test new components without physically building them.

DEVCOM ARL has established a cooperative agreement of $11 million with Clemson; $6.3 million in first-phase funding will support and advance the research at the Clemson Composites Center at the Greenville Technical College’s Center for Manufacturing Innovation, Greenville, South Carolina. 3D Systems, Rock Hill, South Carolina, is collaborating in bringing to life technologies and capabilities via the unique 9-laser, 1 m x 1 m x 600 mm AM machine created for DEVCOM ARL.

“Expanding [3D Systems’] work with Clemson University allows us to push the limits of the technology even further. This includes investigating new methods of in-situ detection, as well as ways to visualise the build in real-time from the data collected in each layer,” commented Jose Duval, advanced R&D Director at 3D Systems.

Clemson faculty members working alongside and guiding students and researchers include Fadi Abdeljawad, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; Gang Li, professor of mechanical engineering and Associate Director of the university’s Composites Center; Shunyu Liu, assistant professor of automotive engineering; Rahul Rai, Dean’s Distinguished Professor of automotive engineering and the principal investigator, Srikanth Pilla, the Robert Patrick Jenkins Endowed Professor at the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences and Founding Director of the Clemson Composites Center.

Part of the challenge of additively manufacturing new components is using the right feedstock; researchers must understand the combination of materials and what amounts will create the desired properties. As part of the project, a raw materials database will be developed, which is hoped to be suitable in training AI to create digital models of potential feedstock.

To create the database, the researchers will additively manufacture samples, ‘coupons’, and subject them to a series of tests to measure their chemical, mechanical and thermophysical properties. Researchers involved with the project have said this coupon testing will allow for more advanced studies in the future, wherein they would manufacture AM subcomponents that take into account the complex geometries of full-size components.

The development is enabled through Clemson’s infrastructure, including AM machines, thermophysical testing equipment, optical metrology, quasi-static and dynamic drop-tower test abilities, accelerated ageing equipment, high-speed cameras and spectroscopic equipment.

Stephanie Koch, Associate Director for DEVCOM ARL’s Weapons and Materials Research Directorate, added, “This collaboration will advance the laboratory’s ability to find new and novel ways to advance the science of advanced manufacturing as well as creating a pipeline of new talent, all towards our mission to operationalise science for transformational overmatch.”

“This project will give our students the opportunity to not only work on but also create the latest technology with 3D Systems, a global leader in the industry,” stated Atul Kelkar, chair of Clemson’s Department Mechanical Engineering. “They will be well prepared to hit the ground running when they enter the workforce or expand their research if they choose to stay in academia.”

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