The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) is a hub for R&D, training, advanced manufacturing management, and factory design based in Coventry, United Kingdom. It was established as part of the UK government’s national manufacturing strategy, using public and private funding to bring academia and industry together, with the aim of bridging the gap between academic discoveries and real-time industry innovation. It provides integrated manufacturing system solutions for customers across sectors that include automotive, aerospace, rail, construction/civil engineering, oil & gas, and defense.
Recently, Sigma Labs, a provider of quality assurance software for additive manufacturing under the PrintRite3D brand, was named a member of the MTC. Membership in the MTC enables Sigma to share and provide expertise and solutions for a number of the MTC’s projects and also network with its existing members, including a number of UK aerospace companies. With Europe as a global leader in the 3D additive manufacturing arena, this agreement provides access to some of the industry leaders in this disruptive technology.
The MTC is home to the European Space Agency (ESA) AM Benchmarking Centre (AMBC) and is the only non-U.S. founding partner in the ASTM AM Centre of Excellence for standardization. It has a partnership with NASA, which is also a partner of the Centre of Excellence, to develop advanced technology used on space missions. Located at the MTC, the National Centre for Additive Manufacturing (NCAM) accelerates the uptake of additive manufacturing (AM) by developing the technology and systems required to address the key challenges within the AM value chain. The MTC is also involved in the Digital Reconfigurable Additive Manufacturing facilities for Aerospace (DRAMA), a research project tasked with improving the UK’s aerospace supply chain utilizing a digital learning factory.
Left to right: Dr. David Brackett, technology manager, MTC; Ron Fisher, VP of business development, Sigma Labs; Dr. Clive Hickman, chief executive, MTC; Darren Beckett, CTO, Sigma Labs; and Prveen Bidare, advanced research engineer – additive manufacturing, MTC.
Sigma will install its PrintRite3D INSPECT In-Process Quality Monitoring and Control technology at the NCAM and participate in various member-sponsored programs with a focus on qualification and certification of the additive manufacturing process. Gaining insights into the part quality during the additive manufacturing build process reduces effort for post-build inspection and ultimately provides the foundation for closed loop process control for improved robustness.
Sigma Labs’ aims are to increase production yield of 3D metal manufactured parts, cut post-process quality inspection costs, and reduce time-to-market. These are accomplished by combining inspection, feedback, data collection, and critical analysis into a unified platform. Its components include multi-sensors and affiliated edge computers to collect real-time data on the additive manufacturing processes. In addition, software enables in-process inspection of metallurgical properties, using sensor data to establish in-process metrics for each product’s design specifications and metal.
The data provides manufacturing engineers with information in real time that can permit them to stop a part that is beginning to display discontinuities from continuing in the process. It generates quality reports based on rigorous statistical analysis of manufacturing process data. In addition, it allows for interrogation of suspect part data that can be used for process improvement and optimization.
Sigma’s entrance into the MTC marks Sigma Labs’ second research agreement with a European center of excellence this year. It follows the news from February that it had been named a member of the Additive Alliance of Fraunhofer IAPT, a global research consortium tasked with advancing the development and implementation of additive manufacturing. The membership enables Sigma to demonstrate the PrintRite3D technology to key players in the market of metal additive manufacturing—specifically, to identify and quantify machine and process inconsistencies as well as to define in-process defect thermal signatures in the part formation process and correlate them to CT scan results.