NASA develops new method for inspection of additively manufactured parts

April 3, 2017

April 3, 2017

NASA develops new method for inspection of additively manufactured parts

The NASA technology can be used to determine geometric differences (flaws) between the designed model and the printed part/component (Courtesy NASA)


Researchers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre, Huntsville, Alabama, USA, have developed what is claimed to be a novel method for interim, in-situ dimensional inspection of additively manufactured parts. The space agency’s new technology uses infrared (IR) and visual cameras to allow users to monitor the build in real-time and correct the process as needed, reducing the time and material wasted in parts that will not meet quality specifications.

NASA believes the technology has the potential to enable the implementation of a closed-loop feedback system, allowing systems for automatic real-time corrections. Different types of cameras are strategically placed around the part to monitor its properties during construction: the IR cameras collect accurate temperature data to validate thermal math models, while the visual cameras obtain highly detailed data at the exact location of the laser to build accurate, as-built geometric models.

The technology also uses a range of adopted techniques (e.g. single to grouped pixels comparison to avoid bad/biased pixels) to reduce false positive readings. This is said to be especially useful for the in-process inspection of a part’s internal features (e.g. fluid channels and passages), which cannot be easily inspected once the print is complete.

NASA has developed and tested prototypes in both laser-sintered plastic and metal processes. The technology detected errors due to stray powder sparking and material layer lifts, and demonstrated the potential to detect anomalies in the property profile caused by errors due to stress, power density issues, incomplete melting, voids, incomplete fill and layer lift-up.

Three-dimensional models of the printed parts were reconstructed using only the collected data, demonstrating the success and potential of the technology to provide a deeper understanding of laser-metal interactions. By monitoring the print, layer by layer, in real-time, users were able to pause the process and make corrections to the build as needed – reducing material, energy, and time wasted in nonconforming parts.

According to NASA, the new system offers the following benefits:

  • Robustness – leveraging processing techniques to reduce false positive readings
  • Flexibility – enabling it to be implemented in existing systems
  • Economy – reducing the time, energy, and material wasted in nonconforming parts
  • Accuracy – using both IR and visual cameras for thermal and spatial accuracy

NASA’s researchers expect the new technology, which is available on license, to be especially useful in Additive Manufacturing for the aerospace, automotive and medical industries.

Potential users can apply to license the technology via NASA’s Technology Transfer Program website.

April 3, 2017

About Metal Additive Manufacturing magazine

Metal AM magazine, published quarterly in digital and print formats, is read by a rapidly expanding international audience.

Our audience includes component manufacturers, end-users, materials and equipment suppliers, analysts, researchers and more.

In addition to providing extensive industry news coverage, Metal AM magazine is known for exclusive, in-depth articles and technical reports.

Our focus is the entire metal AM process from design to application.

Each issue is available as an easy-to-navigate digital edition and a high-quality print publication.

In the latest issue of Metal AM magazine

Download PDF

Extensive AM industry news coverage, as well as the following exclusive deep-dive articles:

  • BMW Group: Laying the foundations for the application of metal Additive Manufacturing in the automotive industry
  • Predicting the metal Additive Manufacturing market – and breaking the hype cycle
  • China’s thriving metal Additive Manufacturing industry: An outsider’s perspective
  • Enhancing the productivity of Additive Manufacturing facilities through PBF-LB automation
  • Award-winning metal AM parts from the MPIF’s 2024 Design Excellence Awards
  • Performance of eddy currents for the in-situ detection of defects during PBF-LB metal AM

The world of metal AM to your inbox

Don't miss any new issue of Metal AM magazine, and get the latest industry news. Sign up to our twice weekly newsletter.

Sign up

Looking for AM machines, metal powders or part manufacturing services?

Discover suppliers of these and more in our comprehensive advertisers’ index and buyer’s guide, available in the back of Metal AM magazine.

  • AM machines
  • Process monitoring & calibration
  • Heat treatment & sintering
  • HIP systems & services
  • Pre- & post-processing technology
  • Powders, powder production and analysis
  • Part manufacturers
  • Consulting, training & market data
View online

Discover our magazine archive…

The free to access Metal Additive Manufacturing magazine archive offers unparalleled insight into the world of metal Additive Manufacturing from a commercial and technological perspective through:

  • Reports on visits to leading metal AM part manufacturers and industry suppliers
  • Articles on technology and application trends
  • Information on materials developments
  • Reviews of key technical presentations from the international conference circuit
  • International industry news

All past issues are available to download as free PDFs or view in your browser.

Browse the archive

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap