Lockheed Martin and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) have begun researching into how AI could help robots 3D print complex parts.
3D printing has helped generate parts used in ships, planes, vehicles and spacecraft. However the entire process requires constant monitoring by expert specialists to get them right.
The Lockheed, ONR two-year, $5.8 million contract will strive to customize multi-axis robots that use laser beams to deposit material.
The team led by Lockheed’s Advanced Technology Center will develop software models and sensor modifications for the robots to build better components.
“We will research ways machines can observe, learn and make decisions by themselves to make better parts that are more consistent, which is crucial as 3D printed parts become more and more common,” said Brian Griffith, Lockheed Martin’s project manager. “Machines should monitor and make adjustments on their own during printing to ensure that they create the right material properties during production.”
Researchers will apply machine learning techniques to additive manufacturing so variables can be monitored and controlled by the robot during fabrication.
“When you can trust a robotic system to make a quality part, that opens the door to who can build usable parts and where you build them,” said Zach Loftus, Lockheed Martin Fellow for additive manufacturing. “Think about sustainment and how a maintainer can print a replacement part at sea, or a mechanic print a replacement part for a truck deep in the desert. This takes 3D printing to the next, big step of deployment.”
Lockheed will vet common types of microstructures used in an additive build. Although invisible from the outside, a part could have slightly different microstructures on the inside.
The team will measure the performance attributes of the machine parameters, these microstructures and align them to material properties before integrating this knowledge into a working system.
With this complete set of information, machines will be able to make decisions about how to print a part that ensures good performance.
According to a press release, the Lockheed-ONR team has begun with the most common titanium alloy – Ti-6AI-4V, and integrated the research with seven industry, national lab and university partners.
Image, content: Lockheed Martin