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R&D Focus

Optical Engine for Material Grain Microstructure-Controlling Additive Manufacturing Technology

A Material Grain Microstructure-Controlling AM Machine installed with ITRI’s optical engine and dynamic control system.

A Material Grain Microstructure-Controlling AM Machine installed with ITRI’s optical engine and dynamic control system.

Controlling the mechanical properties of additive manufacturing (AM) products is critical for industrial applications. However, the effect of traditional post-heat treatment of the laser AM process is marginal. Most importantly, it cannot be freely applied to different areas of a component with different degree of treatment. ITRI’s Optical Engine for Material Grain Microstructure-Controlling AM Technology surmounts these restrictions by providing a new adjusting method to control thermal variation profile in the solidification process of AM, and consequently drastically improving the quality.

This optical controlling technique for laser AM equipment provides complex laser beam shape with multiple irradiation modes to permit local control of material characteristics, thus optimizing performance. The technology consists of a major beam shape for melting the powder, and an extended beam shape for controlling solidification temperatures. Users just need to set the required process parameters to control the preheating temperature and cooling rates of solidification in designated areas to obtain desired product characteristics.

The main applications of this technology are for medical equipment, aeronautical and automobile industries. For medical applications, an example is customized metal orthopedic replacements. Some areas of an implant require hardness to resist wear while others require toughness. As for automobile and aeronautical industries, vital structural components such as turbines require isometric material structure at the rotor hub to resist abrasion and monocrystals or isotropic crystals at the surrounding blades to prevent high-temperature fatigue. ITRI’s laser AM technology has an optical engine which can be used to set multiple cooling and solidification rates in one process to achieve designated local grain microstructure arrangement of the materials. The mechanical properties and characteristics fulfill the demand of these products.

An ultra-micro turbine produced by ITRI’s technology of controlled material grain microstructure for optimized performance.

An ultra-micro turbine produced by ITRI’s technology of controlled material grain microstructure for optimized performance.

ITRI’s Optical Engine for Material Grain Microstructure-Controlling AM Technology can save time and cost while also obtaining specific properties to fulfill requirements of an AM product. Its excellent temperature evolution controlling ability can improve the process stability by controlling the thermal gradient and material grain microstructure. Furthermore, this optical engine can be added to existing commercial equipment to improve controllability and flexibility of the production procedure, making it a promising technology for various applications.