According to a recent Sigma Labs press release, the New Mexico company filed a patent application seeking to protect a sensor that will enhance the quality of metal additive manufacturing processes by carefully monitoring a product’s build cycle.
According to Sigma Labs President and CEO Mark Cola, “[C]urrently, the additive manufacturing process involves a lot of trial and error in order to get the right operating parameters. Companies use their best judgment and past experience, but new materials, new shapes, and new parts offer production challenges and the new Sigma Labs sensor technology could help reduce development time.”
For industries like racing and aerospace, which are fueled by innovative designs and novel geometries, the ability to create one-off prototype parts is essential. While advances in 3D printing have helped teams and companies innovate at break-neck pace, the ability to create reliable and consistent parts has lagged behind. If Sigma Labs’ new press release is to be believed, the company could create a new threshold for what’s considered acceptable in the world of metal AM components.
Elaborating on his company’s new design, Mr. Cola explained, “To know precisely when the laser is putting in just the right amount of energy into the powder layer - not too much and not too little - so that the layer is completely melted without overheating it is very important. Our new sensor and data analysis invention helps to accomplish just that - determine optimal coupling between the laser and the powders.”
With the ink still drying on a mid-year pact between GE and Sigma labs to develop “In-Process Inspection Technology”, it appears the coupling has produced fruitful results sooner than expected. While Sigma Labs said their new inspection and QA technology will be available on their PrintRite3D systems, I wouldn’t be surprised to see other laser sintering companies offer similar products in the near future.
Regardless of whether this new technology sets Sigma Labs’ product apart from the rest of the laser sintering field, it is a significant step in the race to expand additive manufacturing’s influence on industry.
Image Courtesy of Sigma Labs