Additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing, has been around for a few decades, but only recently has it been adopted for serious load-bearing applications due to advancements in technology. In this process, layers of material are built up to create a three-dimensional solid object from a digital file. Promation, an Oakville-based company specializing in tooling, automation, and robotic solutions, saw the potential of 3D printing and sought to develop aerospace-grade manufacturing capabilities using this innovative method.
To accomplish this goal, Promation leveraged the assistance of the Southern Ontario Network of Advanced Manufacturing Industry (SONAMI) to assess the mechanical properties of stainless-steel specimens produced using 3D printing versus traditional methods. SONAMI is a Niagara College-led network of post-secondary institutions, who, through their respective Research and Innovation Centres, collaborate with small- and medium-sized companies to tackle their manufacturing-related challenges.
“Producing 3D printed parts that meet aerospace specifications, would give Promation the ability to offer their clients the flexibility of shaping parts in any geometry and any complex shape they prefer,” said Zia Mahboob, PhD, professor with the Aerospace and Manufacturing department at the School of Engineering Technology Department of Engineering Technology and Applied Sciences (SETAS) at Centennial College.
The company collaborated with Centennial College’s department of Applied Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Services (ARIES), a SONAMI member, on a project to evaluate if their 3D printed specimens could meet aerospace specifications, making them a viable alternative to traditionally manufactured steel. In order to determine whether the specimens met the specifications, the research team conducted mechanical testing using a Material Testing System (MTS) machine, subjecting the specimens to both tensile and compressive loading.
Three part-time student researchers from Centennial assisted in testing the specimens: Matthew Thurston and Shashank Patel, who recently graduated from the Mechanical Engineering Technology – Industrial Diploma program, and Nikolai Verkhov, who recently graduated from the Mechanical Engineering Technology – Design program.
“Working with Promation to evaluate and define the material properties of a 3D printed metal using Laser Directed Energy Deposition (LDED) provided me with a unique opportunity to work with advanced manufacturing techniques that few businesses, let alone students, have access to. From project kickoff to the submission of the final report, I honed my research skills,” notes Thurston.
“In addition to learning more about 3D printing metals and material testing, I had the opportunity to work with a manufacturing company while I was a student. This experience provided me with valuable industry experience and immense confidence,” said Patel. “Without a doubt, working with Promation helped me secure my very first job soon after graduation, thanks to the skills I acquired during the project.”
“The project was an excellent opportunity for students to gain engineering and research experience while enhancing their teamwork skills,” expressed Verkhov.
The students were an essential part of the project team, they conducted research, prepared reports, tested procedures, performed machine assembly and mechanical tests, and collected and analyzed data. They also presented their findings and gained valuable experiential learning experiences through regular meetings with Promation.
Promation found it to be a positive and valuable experience collaborating with ARIES on the applied research project. At the completion of the project, they were able to analyze the performance of additive manufacturing parts to pave the way for further qualification using the novel manufacturing technology.
“ARIES were professional, we had weekly meetings and the project was managed well,” said Farzaneh Kaji, PhD, who was the project lead for Promation. “We had the opportunity to work with knowledgeable researchers, as well as with students who were enthusiastic and learned a lot.”
SONAMI provides innovative solutions, such as process optimization, designing and testing prototypes, evaluating new technologies, and developing and commercializing new or improved products. SONAMI leverages faculty, students, and state-of-the-market equipment, together with funding from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), to support manufacturing in Canada.
If you would like to discuss your organization’s needs with a SONAMI representative, please contact [email protected].