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Improved Cleanliness and Safety of 3D Printed Parts

Dr. Fabrice Bernier, researcher at the NRC, analyzes powders used in 3D printingThe National Research Council of Canada and AP&C, a GE Additive company, Canada, have developed a new way to test the quality of powders used in 3D printing, leading to stronger, cleaner, safer and more reliable 3D printed parts for aerospace and medical devices.

This innovative method allows the detection of very low concentrations of foreign particles in powders using x-ray micro-computed tomography and 3D image analysis. Using this method, each individual foreign particle is visualized; size, brightness, and overall concentration are measured. In situations where cross contamination is a concern, the technique is more sensitive and discriminating than current chemical analysis.

The new method was validated with titanium powders destined for production of aerospace parts, in collaboration with industrial partners. The teams are expanding their capabilities to other materials and metals, such as nickel alloys. The method could be very useful to qualify recycled powders in applications where safety is important.

Louis-Philippe Lefebvre, Powder Forming Team Lead, Medical Devices Research Centre, National Research Council of Canada, commented, “"We hope this new method will support the industrial adoption of 3D printing and ease its implementation in highly regulated environments such as the aerospace and medical devices industries.”

The National Research Council of Canada and AP&C, are cooperating further on improving and developing metal powder characterization methods that are better adapted to the specific needs of the 3D printing industry. In addition to detecting foreign particles using x-ray micro-computed tomography, the National Research Council of Canada is working on the flow of metal powders during the 3D printing process, by measuring how spherical and porous particles are.

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