Additive Manufacturing moves into Quantum physics and a new Electron Beam Melting process for R&D pushes forward
formnext 2018 - day three
Alison Wyrick Mendoza
Greetings from an ICE train from Frankfurt to Zurich, final destination Phoenix, Arizona. I closed out my week at formnext yesterday, and now it's time to head back home. It was hard to choose just two topics to share every day from the show this year; I had so many great conversations and everyone shared so many interesting facts and updates with me. However, these last two were no brainers. Read on and I'm sure you'll agree.
A Quantum leap for AM: moving from airplane parts & implants to optimized Magneto Optical Traps
Prepare for a mic drop.
I had dinner with Sophie Jones from Added Scientific this week during the show. She shared details about a project her team is working on titled OPTAMOT, or Optimised Designs for Additively Manufactured Magneto Optical Traps.
The research team from The University of Nottingham combined their Magneto Optical Trap (MOT) design and optimization experience with the Quantum Technology (QT) group at the University of Sussex and with the DfAM capabilities at Sophie and her team at Added Scientific to take on an iterative design challenge.
Research included characterization studies of the AM material in Ultra High Vacuum (UHV) environments via mass spectroscopy and atomic force microscopy methods. The goal of the project was to establish surface and out-gassing characteristics of the AM material in UHV environments at both elevated and cryogenic temperatures. (Did you catch all of that?)
They are using AM in iterative design studies to produce more complex MOT assemblies that demonstrate integration of MOT magnetic field functions and other enabling functions including diffraction gratings, optical access windows, cooling channels and weight reduction voids.
Why do I think this is pioneering and worth a mention?
While still trying to process all the new terms I’d heard, I asked Sophie why they chose to do this research. Her brief, yet profound answer is the reason why this story not only deserves a spotlight, but is also perhaps the coolest thing I learned about this week.
They wanted to find an application for AM outside of the ordinary: aerospace, orthopedics, automotive, etc. Insert Quantum technology, of course. And I can’t think of anything more pioneering.
Open Source Electron Beam Powder Bed Fusion for Materials R&D
While attending the Oerlikon booth party Wednesday night, I bumped into a former colleague who I haven't seen in several years. It was so great to catch up and see & hear about his new business: Freemelt.
Founded in 2017 by a team of six in Molndal, Sweden, Freemelt offers a new Electron Beam Melting (EBM) process for materials development. One way to truly exploit additive is to harness the ability to manufacture with new materials. The setback, however, is found in current technology limitations. For this reason, the Freemelt team developed Freemelt ONE, a small, open source EBM system designed for materials R&D.
With the Freemelt ONE, users can explore a wide range of materials and compositions, have full control over the electron beam and beam path, can optimize powder distribution, and can attach cameras and other R&D instruments inside the chamber to monitor and better understand the process.
They're giving users access to both hardware and software adaptation and modification, something not generally offered in other AM machines.
I got to see a peek into the inside of the machine as well. The unique powder feeding system and build tank set up allows for builds to perform with smaller powder quantities. The EB gun has 6kW of power, for even faster production of parts (EBM is already a quite fast process).
And last, I had a crash course in their open software platform. Users can create new script (using C, C#, C++, Java, Python) to modify parameters, and synchronize processes in Freemelt ONE. Every layer can be unique regarding electron beam control, powder distribution, layer thickness, data collection, etc. Users can modify the provided open source subsystem services, or create their own to be controlled. (And don't worry, if you need to learn how to script, I can suggest an online course at ASU I enrolled in earlier this year).
The first Freemelt ONE systems are due to ship in Q1 of 2019.
Why do I think this is pioneering and worth a mention?
There's always a lot of talk about collaboration in our industry. We see press releases, handshakes, logos placed side-by-side at every show. Another way to promote collaboration outside of a partnership or JV is through an open source model or an open collaboration model.
The term "open collaboration" is defined as any system of innovation or production that relies on goal-oriented, yet loosely coordinated participants who interact to create a product (or service) of economic value, which they make available to contributors and noncontributors alike. Open source models are commonly observed in open source software, but can certainly be applied in other industries as well, additive manufacturing included.
The more information we can allow the great minds of our industry access to, the more we will continue to push all technologies, applications, materials, etc. forward.
The open source model Freemelt is taking for their new EBM system is the reason why they make the final spot on my formnext 2018 #bepioneering list.