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Reliability Centered Additive Manufacturing Design Framework


Additive Manufacturing (AM) offers the opportunity to fabricate equivalent (i.e. same fit/form/function) structures and components in a more cost effective manner and in ways that are not currently possible with subtractive, casting or other manufacturing approaches. Unfortunately, today there are only a limited number of AM components that can achieve complete equivalency to their original counterparts which significantly limits the use of this technology. Still, if the design space for AM parts is enlarged, enormous benefits could be realized if we are able to incorporate reliability, inspectability and repairability to those parts. By explicitly exploiting some of the inherent AM material anisotropies while minimizing or eliminating known AM weaknesses via effective utilization of topological designs; material, microstructural and functionally graded designs and other design space trade-offs, efficient and reliable structural or functional components can be fabricated. Standing in the way for exploiting these seemingly endless design space trade-offs is the ability to inspect and reliably assure operational safety and performance of such advanced designs throughout the operational life of these components. This SBIR topic is seeking innovative approaches to monitor in-situ the reliability of complex AM parts through their entire design life by including “reliability assurance” as an integral part of the design process and embedded in the AM part itself. This topic is not interested in AM parts with simple geometrical designs which could be inspected with existing Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) Nondestructive Evaluation (NDE) equipment. Depending on the primary function of the AM part (such as carrying structural load, thermal management, material transport, flow control, signature control, etc.) the approach to ensure reliability will vary. Other factors will also need to be considered when choosing the approach such as part accessibility, part criticality, degree of multi-functionality, AM method used to manufacture the part, AM material options and many others. Cost should also be a factor when down selecting amongst several approaches that yield similar levels of safety and reliability. Addressing this topic in its entirety would require resources beyond those available through a single SBIR program because of the number of disciplines that need to be brought to bear. An AM design framework that incorporates reliability throughout the life of the component should integrate understanding and modeling of: 1 - the different manufacturing technologies (SLA, SLS, SLM, FDM, EBM, EBF3, etc.) used to manufacture AM parts; 2 - the materials, processing, microstructure, property, defect types and distribution in the final AM components; 3 - functional performance and progression (load bearing, thermal management, material transport, EM); 4 - the development, progression and criticality of damage in the AM parts; 5- the interaction between the different damage types and the interrogation method used to monitor part for integrity (such as ultrasonic, electromagnetic, thermal, visual, etc.); 6 - as well as the reliability of the monitoring approach itself. Therefore, to narrow the scope of this SBIR topic, this solicitation will focus in only one AM technology for metallic components. Also, “repairability” will only be considered for implementation during Phase III if deemed necessary. The Navy will only fund proposals that are innovative, address the proposed R&D and involve technical risk. PHASE I: Develop a Reliability-Centered AM Computational Design Framework (RCAM CDF) that incorporates a specific AM process for metallic components. This design framework should include at minimum part geometry, material mechanical properties, defect types, as well as an inspection, monitoring or other methodology to guarantee reliability of the component throughout its operational design life. Only small laboratory coupons will be fabricated during this phase of the program to verify and validate different aspects of the RCAM CDF. PHASE II: The Phase I RCAM CDF will be optimized and expanded to incorporate those characteristics that were not previously developed (such as a design optimization algorithm, material microstructure, microstructure evolution, damage nucleation and progression and others as resources allow). The entire RCAM CDF framework will be further optimized for usability, robustness and performance. Small scale laboratory coupons will be fabricated to assist with the expansion and optimization activities of the RCAM CDF. For validation purposes, a small air to air heat exchanger (HX) will be designed using the RCAM CDF. The Principal Investigator will fabricate a minimum of four heat exchanger prototypes. The first HX will be used for dimensional and functional characterization after manufacturing. The second HX will be used to perform detailed cross sectional photo-micrographic analysis to validate the RCAM CDF after manufacturing. The third HX will be used to monitor its reliability throughout an accelerated testing phase. And the fourth HX prototype will be used to perform detailed photo micrographic analysis to validate part reliability after the accelerate testing. The small business must involve an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) during this phase of the contract to facilitate the transition to Phase III. PHASE III: If Phase II is successful, the company will be expected to support the Navy in transitioning the RCAM CDF for Navy use. Working with the Navy, the company will integrate the RCAM CDF framework for evaluation to determine its effectiveness in an operationally relevant environment. The OEM involved during Phase II will be part of the transition team. Phase III will include defining the additive manufacturing parameters for qualified full scale system production and establishing facilities capable of achieving full scale production capability of Navy-qualified HXs. The small business will also focus on identifying potential commercialization opportunities.

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