Penn State engineer receives National Science Foundation funding for strengthening 3D-printed parts

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Saurabh Basu, assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering, is working on making components that are made by additive manufacturing more reliable thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation. (Photo: Penn State)

An Indian professor at Pennsylvania State University, has received more than a quarter million dollars to improve the reliability of 3D-printed parts that are operated under extreme stress.
Saurabh Basu, an assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering, has received more than $260,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation for the project, a Sept. 25, press release from the University, said.
“Basu’s research is of particular interest for those companies, and the U.S. military, that require equipment to undergo an enormous amount of stress — whether it be part of a wind turbine for energy or an engine designed to go under water or into space,” the University noted.
The three-year two-part collaborative research project with Georgia Tech entitled, “Hybrid-Compatible Deformation Processing of Performance Critical Components” focuses on bettering the structural integrity of metal parts used in U.S. aerospace, defense and energy applications. These parts are made using “additive manufacturing,” which is currently used by a range of industries in several applications worldwide; however, it is far from perfect or practical for a number of industries, the press release noted.
“Part of the reason it is challenging is because it’s a slow process and if you try to speed it up, the physics of the process kind of go out of control. You end up with defects and tiny holes that are engrained in the part you are making,” Basu is quoted saying in the press release. “This project basically adds a layer of conventional plastic deformation to seal those holes up during the manufacturing process so you don’t have to go back and fix them in post-processing,” Basu added.
Conventional manufacturing involves plastic deformation — such as bending, shearing or extruding — to change the shape of the raw materials, like the body of a car that is made with sheet metal.
“In additive manufacturing, we are able to fabricate the shape we want quickly, much faster than using conventional manufacturing,” Basu notes. “Complex shapes that cannot be made by conventional manufacturing can also be made additively, even using very complex materials. But the parts are not trustworthy because of the defects. The stresses around those imperfections naturally expand and the part begins to fail or fall apart.”
“We have to make sure that we can better trust additive components not to fail before we regularly use them in an application, say, where a real person’s life may be lost if a part doesn’t hold up under stress,” Basu said, adding, “In many situations the parts just aren’t good to use in our national security efforts because the rate of failure is just too high. We need to fix that.”

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