The US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has modernized its additive manufacturing (AM) laboratory and installed a 3D printing system for aerospace parts.

Plans are to reduce costs, shorten research lead times, improve worker safety and increase efficiency with the new US$2.5 million renovation.

The Concept Laser 3D printer, supplied by GE Additive has reportedly been modified with an open software control system that allows users to exert more control over how powder feedstock is printed.

According to a press release, a computed tomography machine has also been installed for the non-destructive testing of materials produced by AM to detect internal geometry, defects, manufacturing errors and failure modes. The existing HVAC system has also been improved to help ensure greater air purity, and the facility’s grounding system was upgraded to help eliminate the risk of fire ignition.

“Some of the things that make certain alloys very desirable in terms of their performance often make them really finnicky to process. We now have some extra knobs to help us on this front,” said Dr Edwin Schwalbach, research materials engineer. “We’ve also modified the system to allow us to use its multiple laser beams in a synchronized way, and to carefully control the thermal environment during printing.”