Sandia’s engineers have built a new six-sided work cell with a commercial robot at its center to conduct high-throughput testing of 3D printed parts.
Named Alinstante, the flexible, modular and scalable system could also be used for rapid materials discovery and foundational advances in alloy performance and reliability.
The technology, which owes its genesis to Sandia materials scientist Brad Boyce, is an outcome of a project that was initially started to improve the qualification of custom 3D printed parts.
Boyce had already developed a machine for high-throughput tensile testing – pulling on an object until it snaps – but for this project he knew he needed a more general, flexible solution.
The current system features a commercial robot in the center of the hexagonal work cell with up to six ‘petal’ work stations around it.
According to Sandia mechanical engineer Ross Burchard – who led the design of the work cell – the modular, swappable setup offers manufacturers and scientists limitless testing scalability.
In addition to constructing the hexagonal floor plate and pedestal for the commercial robot, the team installed safety light curtains wherever a person and the robot might interact.
The light curtains have been set up in such a way that if a person reaches into the work cell, or if the robotic arm reaches out of the work cell, the light beam is broken and the robot automatically stops.
Tim Blada, the roboticist who is leading the design of the software interface, hopes to have a user interface that will allow a non-expert to place their parts on a tray in the parts rack, select a few tests and get their data automatically.
The team is further mulling on adding a laser-induced breakdown spectrometer to Alinstante which could be useful for determining the batch-to-batch consistency in the chemical composition of parts in a minimally destructive manner.
X-ray tomography, corrosion testing and density measurements are some of the other test components that the team is looking forward to include into Alinstante in the near future.
Image and content: Randy Montoya/Sandia National Laboratories