This year, AMUG, the Additive Manufacturing Users Group Conference, came to QuesTek’s neck of the woods with thousands of engineers, designers, and more, meeting right here in Chicago.
Additive Manufacturing (AM) is a major vertical for QuesTek with more than 70 AM materials engineering projects for clients such as DARPA, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and numerous corporate entities. Naturally, we were excited to connect with the AM community in our city.
As the AM industry and AMUG continue to grow, there’s still a sense that the industry is in its infancy. Though we’re four decades in—3D printers were first developed in the 1980s and AMUG started in 1988—there was a pervading feeling at the conference that something big is right around the corner.
AI and AM
These days, when you talk about a technological breakthrough, it’s only a matter of seconds before someone mentions ChatGPT. Certainly, there was no shortage of discussion of generative AI this year at AMUG.
One the most interesting AM applications of generative AI would be using AL (Active Learning) to generate CAD files. AL could be used to generate optimal geometry designs that maximize strength while minimizing weight and material usage.
In the meantime, AI can already augment computational physics-based predictive models. QuesTek has used machine learning in conjunction with our physics-based models to create materials models that incorporate the large amount of data that is produced during the AM process. This relationship between ICME models and machine learning can produce the best of both worlds.
AM at Scale
As it has for decades, AM remains primarily used for prototyping. For the most part, it has yet to approach other manufacturing methods on efficiency and cost-effectiveness for production at scale. But there was a lot of discussion at AMUG about how that may soon change.
One area where AM is already used for production and has been for some time is custom medical implants. While not manufacturing at scale in the traditional sense, AM is used to produce patient matched implants and also fairly large quantities of, for example, spinal implants (as our chief commercial officer, who comes from this field, knows well).
The customization factor in implants changes the equation. Could customization and mass production combine other areas, such as shoe inserts, headphones, steering wheels, or other products in close contact with the body? There’s a lot of opportunity for a company that can unlock this.
AM and Alloys
Despite the well-established relationship between materials science and AM, there is still room for innovation and composition optimization in materials specifically designed for AM. This is where QuesTek’s Materials By Design® technology is uniquely positioned to address the needs of metal AM, enabling OEMs to achieve the required performance of the end-use part.
Most alloys in the manufacturing landscape were developed with traditional manufacturing processes in mind, such as casting and forging. However, these alloys behave very differently when 3D printed due to the rapid solidification seen during additive manufacturing.
I was able to have some great conversations with AMUG attendees about how QuesTek’s new ICMD software platform enables highly accurate materials design specifically for AM (in addition to other applications). I look forward to seeing how the software platform is used by companies engaged in AM and the innovations they uncover.
About QuesTek Innovations
QuesTek empowers innovators by resolving materials-based challenges.
QuesTek Innovations is both a pioneer and current market leader in Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME). QuesTek’s Materials by Design® technologies are proven to reduce the development time and cost, and increase the performance of novel materials. In its market space, QuesTek is the first and only provider to execute the full cycle from novel design to production, certification, and flight operations with proprietary materials, in a fraction of the time and cost of traditional, or purely algorithmic methods.
For more information, please contact Severine Valdant, Chief Commercial Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org.