Developing new standards for additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing (or near-net shape manufacturing), where components are built up layer-by-layer enables manufacturers to create highly complex custom objects. We’re developing new standards for additive manufacturing to unlock the benefits of reduction of wastage, increased flexibility and efficiency for industry.

It is increasingly being used to make components in the aerospace, automotive and medical sectors and is ideally suited to making high-value parts, which is a key strength in the UK manufacturing sector. However, uptake of the process has been hampered by concerns over reliability and repeatability, so NPL is working to develop testing standards to improve confidence in part performance, especially for safety critical applications.

Progress:

  • In the past few years NPL has provided commercial measurements of material microstructure and physical dimensions to customers.
  • Due to the comparative immaturity of the technology, there is currently a lack of the standardisation needed to underpin a wider uptake. In order to better understand the measurement needs of the industry NPL has recently undertaken a short study to assess how it can best provide under-pinning measurement support.
  • Better measurements of the input materials, in-process measurements to improve stability and quality and novel, non-destructive testing to validate the performance of ‘batch-of-one’ parts are required to improve underlying measurement support. NPL has identified potential partners to collaborate with their current experts and identify strategies to prioritise these areas and start joint research proposals to address industrial needs.
  • NPL completed a short collaborative project with the Manufacturing Technology Centre looking at the application of extant ISO surface roughness standards to additively made metal parts. Due to the current high levels of roughness, the standards are not immediately applicable; the work has shown that, with careful choice of processing settings, it is possible to obtain robust results that are needed in industry.
  • To further drive the standards work in the UK, NPL is working with the STFC, MTC and BSI to develop a co-ordinated approach to the development of certification and validation of AM made parts, with industry and academia.

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