Making Good Parts Even Better

You’ve made your 3D-printed part, now how do you ensure that it meets standards for quality and function?

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We talk a lot about the manufacture and application of 3D-printed parts, but there hasn’t been a lot of discussion about the measurement and testing of these parts, which are critical steps in any part-production cycle. 

For years, 3D-printed parts were used as nonfunctional prototypes, produced primarily for visual purposes in initial product development, but as the technology has advanced, these parts are now being developed to satisfy real-world applications or production requirements. This trend has certainly increased the need for part validation to make sure these printed parts meet standards for quality and function.   

I recently had a conversation with the owner of a company that is now focusing its specialized internal part-inspection services on 3D-printed parts. Jesse Garant is a mechanical engineer with 18 years of management and manufacturing experience who founded Windsor, Ontario-based JG&A Metrology Center. This lab uses industrial computed tomography (CT) scanning to validate internal part geometry in 3D. 

According to Garant, industrial CT uses x-ray technology to penetrate through various materials and gather internal part and composition data that can then be used to validate and qualify a variety of parts, including prototypes, initial printed parts, mold components, and metal or plastic parts. 

What makes industrial CT scanning unique is its ability to validate internal geometry and defects within a part without destroying the part. This nondestructive testing (NDT) method does not apply any external forces or pressure that might alter or warp the part, so the part can still be used after testing. Another benefit of CT scanning is that, once a part is scanned, several different analyses can be run on its dataset; repeated testing on the same part for different analyses is not necessary. Some of these analyses include reverse engineering, internal void analysis, first article inspection, part-to-CAD comparison, internal and external geometry analysis, and more.

Due to nondisclosure agreements, JG&A cannot divulge any companies that are currently employing its CT scanning services or specific details about their parts, but it can share that several companies from vastly different industries are sourcing its services to inspect 3D-printed parts. To read more from JG&A on how x-ray technology can validate the internal geometry of additively manufactured parts in 3D without destroying the part, visit short.mmsonline.com/amct.

Although there are a number of other existing technologies that can be used to validate parts, JG&A decided to focus on CT scanning technology. “Over the past six years, we have seen a gradual increase in 3D-printed parts which require various forms of validation, ranging from comparison of CAD files to scanned results to validating internal and external geometry,” Garant says. “This is a new avenue of business for us that will help add value and validity to 3D-printed parts.” 

Garant believes this technology will help to make a good part even better, which then allows for the creation of even more complex 3D-printed parts in the future.

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