There are a number of viable laser, plasma, and e-beam wire-based additive manufacturing technologies for large parts that are complementary to powderized bed approaches suitable for smaller parts. Unfortunately, to date there has been no demonstrable real-time interrogation of either the melt or deposited material, limiting process control and the creation of verifiable defect-free and repeatable yields.
To address these fundamental limitations, NASA has invested in the extension of their original e-beam technology with an eye toward using it for in-space manufacturing, assembly and repair. This new system offers the unique potential for defect detection/correction in real time, as well as controlling metal crystallographic qualities for a broad range of metal AM applications as the technology continues to evolve and develop.
Innovative hardware designs have enabled the demonstration of optimized beam characteristics that provide a controllable balance between delivered power and real-time high resolution imaging. This capability will be used in space and other remote environments where access to high-quality prefabricated metal parts is not feasible. Also, e-beam/metal wire techniques offer potentially superior energy efficiency in the fabrication of large metal parts (compared to other approaches), which increases its value both on and off planet.
We will discuss the state of the system development as well as provide modeling and preliminary test data exploring the beam parameter controllability and the relationships between beam parameters and the trade-offs in the associated imaging capability and energy transfer rates for a newly designed electron beam column.
- Understand the unique NASA-specific needs for in-space manufacturing, and how meeting these needs will have direct relevance to existing process development issues terrestrially.
- Realize that this new technology addresses an industry-wide issue of verifiable repeatability and quality for large metal 3D components.
- Appreciate that the efficiencies and design flexibility for in-space manufacturing can be brought to bear on near-term applications here on Earth.