Force Measurement is Shaping Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing (AM), an innovative process known as 3D printing, starkly contrasts traditional manufacturing techniques. Instead of removing material from a solid block or shaping molten material, AM builds three-dimensional objects layer by layer. This unique approach opens a world of possibilities in manufacturing.

Additive manufacturing can work with various materials, including plastics, metals, ceramics, gels, and biomaterials. This versatility expands AM’s applications and requires stringent testing protocols to validate the chosen material’s durability, strength, and performance. Interface products provide valuable data for various additive manufacturing research, testing, prototyping, and production applications.

Top Three Trends in Additive Manufacturing Using Sensor Technologies

#1 Material: Researchers are constantly developing new materials for 3D printing. These include materials with unique properties, such as biocompatible materials for medical devices or strong and lightweight materials for aerospace applications. These new materials are expanding the applications of additive manufacturing. Sensors for material testing are essential for adopting reliable products and machines for production. For more information, read Force Measurement is Fundamental in Material Testing.

2 Automation: The future of additive manufacturing is increasingly automated, a shift that is enhancing efficiency and reducing costs. This automation extends to various tasks, from powder handling to post-processing and quality control. By reducing human error and streamlining processes, automation is not just a buzzword but a key driver in the evolution of additive manufacturing. Interface load cells, torque transducers, and multi-axis sensors enable automation by delivering accurate measurement data in the design, use, and adaption to automation. Learn more about Force Measurement Solutions for Advanced Manufacturing Robotics.

#3 High-Volume Production: Additive manufacturing is moving away from its known use case of prototyping. Companies increasingly adopt additive manufacturing equipment to produce end-use parts even in high volumes, driven by the development of faster and more reliable 3D printing technologies. Producing complex parts without traditional tooling makes additive manufacturing attractive for short-run production or customized products. Interface systems for data acquisition are precious in high-production environments that make real-time decisions for equipment and production operators. Check out Interface Manufacturing and Production Solutions.

These emerging trends rely on accurate quality measurements for final adoption across the many manufacturing layers. Additive manufacturing has several advantages, including design freedom, reduced waste, and rapid prototyping. While AM is growing in production applications, it’s still primarily used for prototyping, creating custom parts, and low-volume manufacturing.

Force measurement solutions, a key component in additive manufacturing, are instrumental in driving innovation, automation, and production. How exactly do they do this?

  • Sensor Integration: By embedding force sensors directly into printed parts, engineers can gain valuable data on stress and strain during operation. This data is fed back into the design process, allowing for optimization and creating parts with improved performance.
  • Material Characterization: Force measurement tools can assess the mechanical properties of new printable materials., which helps determine their suitability for different applications and guides the development of novel materials for additive manufacturing.
  • Robot Calibration and Control: Precise force measurement is essential for calibrating and controlling robotic arms in additive manufacturing processes to ensure accurate material deposition and smooth operation, reduce errors, and improve automation efficiency.
  • Process Monitoring: Sensors can continuously monitor printing forces throughout the build, which allows for real-time detection of anomalies, like nozzle blockage or inconsistencies in material flow. Early detection helps prevent defective parts and wasted materials.
  • Quality Control: Force measurement can be integrated into post-processing steps to assess finished parts’ dimensional accuracy and mechanical integrity. This helps ensure parts meet quality standards and reduces the need for manual inspection.
  • In-Situ Machining: Additive manufacturing can combine subtractive techniques like milling or laser cutting for complex geometries. Force measurement helps control these processes, maintaining part integrity and preventing damage during machining.

Learn more in Interface’s additive manufacturing solutions overview.

Interface Additive Manufacturing Applications

Tensile Testing for 3D Material

A tensile force test on different 3D printing materials until failure of the material is vital. The various 3D printing materials tested in this application included PLA, PETG, and ASA to see how they performed. The customer wanted to test the material’s quality, strength, elasticity, and stiffness. Interface’s 1200 Standard Precision LowProfile™ Load Cell is installed into the customer’s test frame. The tensile test is conducted, and force results are captured by the load cell synced through the INF-USB3 Universal Serial Bus Single Channel PC Interface Module. The supplied software can display these results on the customer’s PC. Learn more about this application here.

Demand Prosthetics and Orthotics with Integrated Load Cells

Prosthetic limbs and orthotics must bear weight and adapt to varying pressure during movement. A static design might not perfectly capture the dynamic forces experienced daily. Integrate multi-axis sensors into the prosthetic or orthotic design. These sensors can measure forces and torques applied at different points on the device. The collected data can optimize the design for better weight distribution, pressure relief, and improved comfort for the user. Additionally, real-time data can monitor gait analysis and potentially control prosthetic features for enhanced mobility.

Force Feedback Printing

Accuracy and quality during the 3D printing for parts with tight tolerances or those designed to handle specific loads require sensor enablement. For example, by implementing a miniature load cell or load pin load cells into the 3D printer, these sensors can measure the printing force exerted by the nozzle in real time. By monitoring the force, the printer can adjust printing parameters like material flow or speed to maintain consistent part dimensions and material properties. It can reduce printing defects and improve product quality. 3D printing can create complex shapes and imbue them with functionalities that will enhance performance, usability, and the learning experience. Learn more about printer feedback here.

Force measurement solutions provide valuable data and insights throughout the additive manufacturing workflow. This data is vital to driving innovation in material development and part design, automating processes for efficiency, and ensuring consistent, high-quality production.

Contact an Interface Application Engineer to learn more about products best suited for your additive manufacturing projects.