Materialise announced its Process Control software for metal 3D printing and introduced the Build Processor Software Development Kit (BP SDK). The new solutions enable additive manufacturing (AM) users to fully control the 3D printing process by using automated quality control and customizing their 3D printer parameters.
AM service providers are challenged to meet growing demands and expectations regarding part quality and competitive pricing. A key element of this task is to monitor and control the 3D printing process. However, AM users are missing the right tools and suffer from failed builds, hidden defects inside their parts, and standard 3D printing parameters that don’t support their AM applications. This wastes machine time, material, and post-processing capacity, leading to unnecessary costs.
One step ahead with automated quality control
Materialise Process Control enables manufacturers to introduce quality control using data gathered during 3D printing. By analyzing and correlating layer data from the 3D printing process, users can identify defective parts before they are sent to post-processing and quality inspection, which can account for 30 percent to 70 percent of a part’s total manufacturing cost. Analyzing the layer data also enables users to find the root cause of defects faster, allowing them to optimize the process and adapt their 3D printing parameters. Early scrap detection and root cause analysis help lower the cost per part by reducing both scrap rates and expensive quality control efforts during post-processing.
“Materialise Process Control uses artificial intelligence to automate quality control, helping our customers save significant time and money,” said Bart Van der Schueren, CTO of Materialise. “Through collaborations with partners like Phase3D and Sigma Additive Solutions, AM users benefit from a technology-agnostic innovation that offers unparalleled insights into their 3D printing process for continuous improvement.”
As most 3D-printed parts are made of thousands of layers, manually analyzing them is time-intensive and prone to human error. Materialise Process Control automates the process, providing workers additional time to improve the AM process. It uses artificial intelligence to examine 2D images of the powder bed taken during the 3D printing process. Materialise collaborated with Phase 3D and Sigma Additive Solutions to integrate complementary data and to provide deep insights into the 3D printing process. Phase 3D technology adds height mapping, a form of topographic layer data, and Sigma Additive Solutions provides thermal data from the melt pool, the area of the melted material during the metal 3D printing process.
Materialise Process Control is available as part of CO-AM, Materialise’s end-to-end software platform for 3D printing, and as a standalone software solution. As an open software solution, partners can add their software and monitoring technology.
Optimizing the 3D printing process
A build processor (BP) connects 3D printers with software for data preparation, such as Materialise Magics. It manages 3D printer-specific information and enables users to influence build parameters, which affect how fast a 3D print job is done and determine part properties, such as density and surface quality. Suboptimal build parameters increase the cost per part by causing long build jobs, high efforts during post-processing, and high scrap rates.
“More and more AM users want to scale up their activities and serve the demand for quality end-part manufacturing. Very often, the standard build parameters of a 3D printer don’t match their needs,” shared Karel Brans, senior director of partnerships at Materialise. “They are looking for ways to improve the machine utilization rate and achieve consistent quality. With a BP developed for a specific use case, you can push productivity and quality to a whole new level.”
However, until now, it has been very difficult to create BPs or adapt them for specific applications. The BP SDK offers an agile way to achieve that. Machine vendors and manufacturing companies with R&D capacities can use the development platform as a toolkit on their own, rely on Materialise’s AM expertise or choose a collaborative approach. Using proven BP technology, they can shorten the product development cycle, integrate their own APIs, and generate new intellectual property. This open development process supports collaboration and can drive the diversification and optimization of BPs.
The BP SDK offers AM users the opportunity to deploy BPs tailored to their needs. A tailored BP applies print parameters hitting the sweet spot of cost-efficiency and part quality for an AM application. It allows users to manufacture complex parts and mass-produce identical or customized products with consistent quality, decreased scrap rate, and shortened lead times. Optimizing the 3D printing process will help to make more AM use cases sustainable and drive industrial adoption of the technology. Build processors co-developed with the BP SDK provide full connectivity to CO-AM and Materialise Magics.