ORNL Testing Robotic AM System with Neutron Supply

Oak Ridge Nationwide Laboratory appears to have all the perfect toys the place it involves testing 3D printing processes for metals, and the newest experiment at ORNL seems to bolster that notion.

The researchers at ORNL have developed a robotic platform for finding out the habits of metallic bonding throughout AM processes, which has been put in of their VULCAN engineering diffraction instrument at ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Supply (SNS).

Learn on to know extra concerning the experiment.


The SNS facility is powered by a linear particle accelerator that makes use of beams of neutrons to check supplies on the atomic scale.

The 6-axis robotic platform is called “OpeN-AM” (Operando Neutrons-Additive Manufacturing), which is their acronym signifying that the robotic makes use of neutrinos to check the method whereas it’s underway. The robotic arm is fitted with a welding torch to be used throughout a wire arc-based AM course of.

The OpeN-AM experimental platform, put in on the VULCAN instrument. (Picture credit score: ORNL)

Because the wire contacts the substrate, an electrical present is utilized that melts the wire and creates the bond to the substrate. It will also be fitted with a excessive energy laser for melting a wire or powder feedstock right into a soften pool.

The robotic AM arm additionally has a CNC companion stationed subsequent to it, for subtractive processes, which means that the OpeN-AM system has hybrid additive/subtractive capabilities.

The construct desk is pretty superior additionally, and has a number of levels of freedom to permit scanning from totally different angles, and can be geared up with cooling channels to change the temperature of the half for finding out the results of warmth through the course of.


To scan the elements as they’re constructed throughout experiments, the researchers will use the VULCAN engineering diffraction instrument. VULCAN fires a beam of neurons on the goal space and measures the space between atoms in metals as they’re uncovered to excessive levels of temperature and stress, constructing an image on how stress is forming. A number of cameras are positioned across the space, in order that temperature might be monitored through the course of.

All of this course of is automated, with every part synchronizing on the push of a button.

VULCAN engineering diffraction instrument. (Picture credit score: ORNL)

To this point, the researchers have carried out experiments on primary shapes, however the construct space contained in the VULCAN equipment is massive sufficient to accommodate elements as massive as an engine.

“There’s solely a lot you possibly can find out about a fabric after it’s processed utilizing conventional characterization instruments. The aim of the OpeN-AM undertaking is to offer a brand new, extra superior means of characterizing the method that allows us to see contained in the supplies as they’re being produced,” mentioned Alex Plotkowski, undertaking lead at ORNL.

“Neutron experiments are a key element that permit us to watch and measure modifications within the supplies, resembling temperature, how section transformations are occurring, and the way the distributions of residual stresses are evolving. These insights are crucial to optimizing the expertise to make supplies with improved efficiency.”

Accelerated with AI

Sometimes, experiments of this nature are time consuming, requiring assortment of neutron knowledge from numerous factors across the object underneath research. Every location might take 30 seconds to gather the info, with the experiment needing to be paused a number of occasions. Typically this might end result within the experiment taking so long as 10 hours.

Because of the wonders of AI, the researchers are in a position to take a subset of information factors which permit the machine the place to gather knowledge from subsequent. The autonomous system then repositions the pattern so the neutron beam can scan there.

It’s a vastly optimized method and permits researchers to make the perfect use of their restricted experiment time. Additionally they profit from lowered knowledge storage, because the system doesn’t accumulate superfluous knowledge when guided by the AI.

All in all, the algorithm can estimate residual stress characterizations in about one-third of the time that it will have taken earlier than.


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