Advancing Additive Manufacturing

Standardization News

Advancing Additive Manufacturing

ASTM International’s partners in the Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence talk about the center’s goals.

What does your organization bring to the new ASTM International Center of Excellence?

Steven Taylor, Auburn University: Auburn brings to the table vast experience in education and workforce development and in research — we have faculty researching additive manufacturing day in and day out. We have an extensive knowledge base on process and how it affects material properties and part performance. We’re also renovating the Gavin Engineering Research Lab, which will have research space, space to accommodate students working on additive, and office area the COE can use. Auburn’s role in workforce development involves educating engineers, both at the undergraduate and graduate level, who will advance additive manufacturing in academia or industry for decades to come. Our team is also developing material to educate the technical workforce in the manufacturing sector.

Michael Ulbrich, EWI: EWI will be doing standards-related R&D, fostering industry partnerships, and launching an industry consortium to focus on developing standards and practices. We have some 250 EWI members across multiple industries doing hundreds of projects, and that provides us with insight into industry’s needs across many different technologies, including AM. We have an existing AM consortium that focuses on precompetitive R&D that we can build on for this standards-specific COE consortium. And we can build on our own laboratory capabilities — we have all seven AM process categories in three locations. We bring expertise in technologies that support AM, including materials engineering, structural integrity, inspection, and so on. 

John Vickers, NASA: The primary capability NASA brings is expertise in aerospace research and development. We were an early adopter of 3D printing, and we have extensive experience with almost all of these systems, starting with polymers almost 25 years ago, and more recently, metals. We specialize in liquid rocket components, and we use AM for high-value critical components. NASA and the aerospace community have deep roots in manufacturing technology and innovation, and the foundation for all of this ties to standards. We also have decades of collaboration with ASTM, and a great deal of committee involvement.

Ken Young, Manufacturing Technology Centre: Here at MTC we have a very robust process to prove that any one additive manufacturing process will produce the right quality. In helping to drive standardization, we understand what’s needed to make additive work in a production environment. We can work out what to put around the technology so that it can be done time and again to get the same product every time.

How will the COE help accelerate innovation in 3D printing?

Taylor (Auburn): One of the greatest contributions the COE will make is bringing people from around the world together. In fact, it’s already doing so. Auburn has an existing partnership with NASA and numerous industry collaborators, and between that and the ASTM COE, we’ve already made many more connections with industry partners and academic institutions, both domestic and international. Now that the COE has been formally announced and funded, there are others that are coming to the table and saying, “We’d like to be part of it too.”

Ulbrich (EWI): The COE will help bridge the standards development gap with R&D to enable more efficient standards development, and the partners will also be working on education and training, proficiency testing, certification, and other programs. As standards are developed and adopted, companies that are just exploring AM will become AM adopters, which should in turn spur more attention and resources that will accelerate innovation further.

Vickers (NASA): I see the COE foremost as a facilitator of R&D for standards development.
The R&D committee is already developing a focused roadmap to accelerate standards-
driven projects and their implementation. At NASA, information from disciplines such as materials, design, manufacturing, testing, and verification flows back and forth for technology development. If we can work together in the COE in this fashion, it will be much more effective.

Young (MTC): With standards and training, if somebody wants to use 3D printing, they will know exactly what they have to do to make it work without having to work it all out themselves. That’s the challenge of any new technology. It’s not just going out and buying a 3D printer, it’s also about what you do to get something out of it: how to buy and manage the feedstock, load the machines, design the parts, separate the parts from the unused feedstock, recycle that feedstock, inspect and post-process the part, and more.

How can and do standards speed and shape the process of innovation?

Taylor (Auburn): Additive is a rapidly developing technology, and standards will really help the technology. Standards provide a commonly accepted framework within which additive suppliers, manufacturers, and customers can all speak the same language and have a common understanding of how AM products are fabricated and perform. Recently, the COE R&D group met at Auburn to map out a research strategy and discuss areas where research is needed to move standards forward. For example, one centered on the safety issues of metal powder — how much can you store in a plant and how do you safely handle it? It appears that there are no accepted fire protection standards yet, and without them, each municipality might impose more restrictions on AM than are really needed, stalling the technological growth.  

Ulbrich (EWI): One area to look to is a trusted common language. When companies up and down the supply chain want to adopt a new technology, additive or other, language helps with the process. Standards can be that language that builds trust. Standards can allow research results to be shared and built on at a relatively early stage. By focusing research toward standards development, a group speaking a shared language can accomplish more than any one individual research group, company, or organization could on its own.

Vickers (NASA): At NASA, standards can be the catalyst for innovation. We have to assess our processes and our product with some measure of risk. Standards allow us to implement additive in a risk posture that we’re able to accept. As an example: Additive is a new dramatic change in the way we work and produce products today. There aren’t many standards. Without standards serving as a foundation for innovation, the capabilities far exceed our ability to implement it. Now we’re trying to accelerate standards development to keep up with AM technology. It’s only once in a while that something this dramatic comes along and absolutely changes the way we work, design, and manufacture, and how we look at the delivered products.

Young (MTC): If you want to adopt a new process, it’s easier if you can buy a standard that tells you how to get the best out of it. Standards are the book that tell you how to do it; training courses help you interpret what’s in the standard.

What excites you most about this partnership?

Taylor (Auburn): From Auburn’s standpoint, we have a great relationship with NASA and are building a new AM center in this partnership. The partnership with ASTM International builds this even more and puts it on an international stage. What’s so valuable are the relationships you develop, such as with MTC and EWI, and the countless people worldwide who will want to collaborate and have a part in this. It will help us
all do the research, educate our students and the workforce better, and help the industry develop in a way that makes sense.

Ulbrich (EWI): The potential to have true systems-level change is very exciting. EWI helps individual companies be more competitive through technology and innovation. Here we’re looking at the systems level — design flexibility, product evolution, supply chain evolution, and new business models that leverage additive — and a more robust, faster standards development process. The other area is partnerships: We’re excited to be working with these well-known, well-respected organizations focused on certain additive areas. We would not be able to do this on our own, and I don’t think the other partners would be able to do it on their own. Partnerships are really important here, both the official ones and industry partners through the consortium, training, and more. When you bring these perspectives together, there’s a lot of opportunity to make a really big impact.

Vickers (NASA): It’s really the collaboration for me. I mentioned that NASA and ASTM have a decades-long relationship in developing aerospace standards that benefit industry and NASA. Now we look forward to working with the COE partners and enabling additive’s enormous potential. I asked an astronaut about how her view from the International Space Station gave her an understanding of the earth as one ecosystem, and creating an ecosystem is what I think we’re doing with this COE. We’re connecting to be able to do things faster and smarter, really extraordinary things — and you’re
not going to do these things alone.

Young (MTC): It’s that opportunity to make things happen and to work across international boundaries. Additive has a global supply chain, and it’s no good having a standard in the U.K. if the standard in the U.S. is different. The more we can ensure that all of the standards across the world are identical, the easier it is for multinationals — they’re the ones who will use additive first, and they can see the benefits from it.

What do you think the long-term impact the work of this COE will have on industry?

Taylor (Auburn): I think the COE will help industry develop  a strong framework and understanding about what additive is and its incredible potential, which will further progress this evolving field. This partnership will ultimately change how we design and build things, and  it is already changing how we think about what’s possible to create. We are witnessing an inflection point in history. 

Ulbrich (EWI): As I mentioned, systems-level change can happen. If more companies have standards to reference, that will allow them to quickly and effectively adopt additive. Additive is
a tool, and if they can use that tool effectively they’ll be a more competitive company. That will mean that companies will grow, and that means growth in the overall economy. When more small and medium-size manufacturers readily begin to use additive day in and day out, you’ll see additive and its impact on industry grow.

Vickers (NASA): This will greatly improve the standards posture for AM. The role that standards play in supporting what we do in aerospace and industry as a whole, and our national competitiveness, is well-known. For NASA especially I think about what this helps us do throughout our supply chain and to manage
the risk I mentioned earlier. It gives us that evidence of ways to measure performance of processes and products that we use.

Young (MTC): Hopefully this will allow industry to use additive more quickly, more broadly. It will increase that rate of penetration of the new technology. Hopefully it will give our manufacturing industry a competitive edge.

Steve Taylor, Ph.D., P.E., is a professor and associate dean for research in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn University. He previously served as head of Auburn’s Department of Biosystems Engineering and its Center for Bioenergy and Bioproducts. He is a registered professional engineer and a fellow of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

Michael Ulbrich is president of EWI New York, which focuses on developing and deploying new technologies that enable companies to bridge the gap between R&D and manufacturing implementation. An industrial engineer by training, Ulbrich served as vice president of J.P. Morgan Private Bank, Nordic Region, prior to the opening of EWI’s Buffalo Manufacturing Works facility in 2015.

John Vickers is the NASA principal technologist in the area of advanced manufacturing, associate director of the Materials and Processes Laboratory at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, and manager of the NASA National Center for Advanced Manufacturing. As principal technologist, he leads the nationwide NASA team to develop advanced manufacturing technology strategies to achieve the goals of NASA’s missions.

Ken Young, Ph.D., is technology director of the Materials Technology Centre, where he oversees a research program delivering innovative technology. Young sits on the Programme Experts Group for the National Measurement Systems advanced manufacturing stream and was chair of the British Automation and Robot Association for 10 years. He is also co-chair of AM-UK, authors of the U.K. AM strategy.

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