VELO3D unleashed a new quality control product they call the “Assure Quality Assurance and Control System”.
This is quite interesting because it effectively grants “super powers” to the 3D printer’s operators. Let me explain.
Sapphire 3D Printer
VELO3D’s Sapphire system, while at first seeming to be just another powder bed laser metal 3D printer, is actually quite a bit more. The Sapphire includes a sophisticated recoating system that dramatically reduces the need for support structures, for example.
VELO3D 3D Printing Sensors
Another major feature in the Sapphire 3D printer is a wealth of sensors. VELO3D is tracking essentially everything that can be tracked in a 3D printer during its operation. The idea is that by intimately controlling the environment and process, you should be able to achieve higher part quality and increase print reliability.
The sensor information is used by the Sapphire system itself to manage its 3D printing operations, but now there’s a change: the Assure system places this data in the hands of the Sapphire operator, and thus allows more intelligent direct control of 3D printing operations to achieve higher part quality.
Operators will now be able to see the results of their 3D print parameters in terms of print quality. This allows for practical tweaks to 3D print parameters with a very good idea of how it will affect the final part.
Stratasys Direct Uses Assure
VELO3D’s first Assure client turns out to be none other than Stratasys Direct, the 3D printer manufacturer’s service bureau. (Aside: if you’re wondering why Stratasys would employ a competitor’s products in their own service operation, it’s because Stratasys does not yet offer a metal 3D printer product, and besides, they offer other vendor’s technologies as well.)
VELO3D Porosity Predictor
A key feature of Assure seems to be the Porosity Predictor. This is a sophisticated simulator that can, by examining the print parameters, part geometry and environmental factors produce an estimate of the final part density. This is a critical factor in determining part quality: if a part is “sparse”, then it is not as strong as it could be. Some clients may even have specified porosity requirements for their parts.
VELO3D explains how it works:
“Assure provides an intuitive user interface to interpret vast amounts of multi-sensor real-time process data. This interface tracks tool health and provides an estimate of part quality increasing user confidence in deposited material density.”
Such a massive pile of data would be challenging to interpret on its own, so the provision of Assure to VELO3D clients can dramatically improve their ability to achieve high 3D print quality without a lot of effort.
Real Time 3D Print Monitoring
There are two parts to Assure’s operation. It first can check whether the input parameters on a metal 3D print job are within success tolerance. It can also automatically make sure these aspects are covered:
Beam size across the build plane
Multi-laser overlay accuracy
Optical window cleanliness
Powder bed health
The second part is during 3D print job execution. Assure will monitor sensor data to ensure all aspects are within specifications. Before it commences 3D printing each layer, all sensors are again checked. After a layer is completed, Assure checks the freshly printed material for “protrusions”. The idea is that if everything is within specification, then the entire print should be of the highest quality. This greatly increases the probability of success for the entire 3D print job.
VELO3D Assure Workflow
After three months of testing, Stratasys Direct has incorporated Assure into their production workflow, having seen the benefits of using it for VELO3D work. They Stratasys Direct’s CEO, Kent Firestone explains:
“We integrated Assure into our quality control workflow because it produces highly actionable insights. The user interface features intuitive graphs and charts that enable us to see and interpret the vast amount of data collected during builds. This information helps our engineers verify the quality of the build each step of the way, and enables them to make quick decisions in the event of an issue. Assure helps us reduce production variation, improve yields, and circumvent anomalies to ensure consistent additive manufacturing.”
It seems that Stratasys Direct believes Assure can improve their workflow. If it can for them, it can for you, too.
The availability of Assure from VELO3D puts a stake in the ground regarding the development of future metal 3D printers. While it is relatively straightforward to throw together a powder bed laser 3D printer, it is not easy to ensure it prints correctly each and every time. That’s the value that VELO3D provides with this new system.