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Auburn deploys new digital X-Ray system to improve manufactured parts

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering is now teaching an inspection process for additive manufactured parts by utilizing a customized digital radiology vault acquired through a $1.5 million grant front the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The work is meant to help improve the additive manufacturing parts process that will help NASA in its future and ongoing aerospace missions.

The new system is comprised of a customized digital radiology vault from Pinnacle X-Ray Solutions that accommodates additive manufacturing machines designed and built by Auburn researchers to fit within the X-ray vault.

This unique solution enables Auburn engineers and their partners to conduct three-dimensional non-destructive interrogation of mission-critical metal parts as well as provide real-time process monitoring of the additive manufacturing process.

Researchers are able to confirm internal dimensions of structures and assess the quality of not only the finished part, but the manufacturing process itself.

Auburn’s Center for Additive Manufacturing was formed in 2015 and includes extensive collaborations between Auburn, NIST, NASA and the global standards organization ASTM International.

The center trains and educates graduate and undergraduate students through the process. It also promotes technological innovations that advance the pace of the additive manufacturing industry.

Bart Prorok, professor of materials engineering and principal investigator on the NIST grant, reported that the new system offers precise design interrogation capabilities previously unattainable using conventional post-production methods.

“It’s a real game-changer because while we’re building a component with additive, it’s difficult to monitor what’s happening,” Prorok said. “With this new system, we can take two-dimensional X-ray pictures of a metal structure for real-time process monitoring or a series of 2-D images in 360 degrees of rotation that are then reconstructed into a 3-D representation of the build.”

Auburn engineering researchers are working with NIST, NASA, the U.S. Army, ASTM International and leaders throughout the aerospace and aviation industries to develop industry standards.

Their progress will help bring additive manufacturing of mission-critical pieces into commercial use.

NASA recently awarded Auburn $5.2 million to develop additive manufacturing process and techniques to improve the performance of liquid rocket engines.

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