University of Waterloo and NRC collaborate to drive adoption of metal AM
January 6, 2021
Researchers at the Multi-Scale Additive Manufacturing (MSAM) Lab based at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) are collaborating to help Canadian companies capitalise on metal Additive Manufacturing technologies. The partnership is anticipated to run for at least seven years.
“We want to create, in southwestern Ontario, a unique ecosystem to support metal Additive Manufacturing in terms of research and development and to translate competencies to industry partners,” stated Mihaela Vlasea, the associate director of MSAM and a professor of mechanical and mechatronics engineering at Waterloo.
The partnership combines MSAM’s expertise in metal AM process optimisation with the NRC’s decades-long experience in materials science and metal powders development to enable research from powder to part. Research teams at Waterloo and the NRC have worked closely for the past three years in the areas of metal AM and process optimisation, materials and product characterisation, standardised testing and validation.
The collaboration will be based at a new NRC facility in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, which was inaugurated on November 16, 2020. The site will launch powder synthesis, recycling and characterisation capabilities in Ontario to customise AM and reduce material costs for industry applications.
To support this collaboration, the NRC awarded nearly CAD$2.6 million worth of equipment to the university as part of its Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster Support program, led by the NRC’s Automotive and Surface Transportation Research Centre. The equipment will be housed at the new Mississauga facility and the university. As part of this collaboration, both partners will also support student research.
A major thrust of the project is said to be the development of new AM powders – the raw materials at the heart of the technology – using metal alloys that currently aren’t available or are prohibitively expensive. Researchers will also study reusing and recycling leftover powders, and the use of cheaper, less-refined powders that may still be capable of producing high-quality parts.
The underlying objective is to make AM technology economically viable for more Canadian manufacturers, either by creating new commercial powders – which now number less than two dozen – or reducing the costs of using existing powders. The research teams will also study the production of powders by the Canadian mining industry of sufficient quality for AM processes.
Vlasea added, “I think we can open up new market sectors by empowering people who currently don’t even think about Additive Manufacturing because their materials don’t exist or they just cost too much.”