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Wayland Additive

Metrology

Innovative Powder Dispense and Spread Capabilities for Metal Additive Manufacturing

Wayland’s Calibur3 optimizes powder delivery and reduces material waste

Published: Monday, June 21, 2021 - 12:02

Metal additive manufacturing (AM) is a process with demanding requirements for in-process material management, specifically with regard to the use of powdered metals. The Calibur3 system from Wayland Additive, enabled by the NeuBeam process, not only redefines how the electron beam (eBeam) process can be applied in a more stable and flexible way, but also offers a number of unprecedented powder-dispense capabilities for metal AM. 

The Calibur3 system allows users to measure powder dispensing and flow to optimize powder usage and extend overall powder recycling to achieve greater economies of scale. (There is an animation here.)

Wayland Additive has brought knowledgeable personnel on board to further the development of the NeuBeam process, the Calibur3 system, and the capabilities they can offer. Specific attention has been given to the disciplines of material science and mechanical engineering.

The latter has resulted in a breakthrough with the powder dispensing and spreading mechanism. The mechanical engineering team has developed this mechanism in parallel with implementing a structured light-scanning process—one of three in-process monitoring systems embedded in the Calibur3. Together, this dual approach has facilitated a powder-dispense system that provides optimal results in a number of key ways.

Calibur3 system allows users to measure powder dispensing and flow

For each build layer, the system ensures that the powder is dispensed from a nozzle to create a powder heap—shaped like a ridge—at the side of the powder bed. The Wayland development team has characterized the relationship between the flow of the powder and the amount of powder dispensed. As a result, a proprietary mechanism controls the amount of powder that is dispensed for each layer by controlling the distance between the nozzle and the powder bed.

This means that a consistent and optimal volume of powder can be dispensed and dispersed across the top of the powder bed even if there is drift in the flow of the powder from build to build, or even within the same build. It also means that users can easily adapt the system to work with powders with different flow, and predict the performance of the powder in the Calibur3 by applying a simple flow test.

Furthermore, once the powder has been dispensed, the volume of powder for that layer can be measured and monitored using the Calibur3 structured-light in-process monitoring system. This process involves 3D scanning the shape of the powder heap dispensed and provides an accurate real-time measurement of the powder in cubic centimeters. This information enables full control of the amount of powder that is dispensed for each layer. For example, if too little powder is being dispensed, the system will detect this, and the dispense volume can be increased on subsequent layers.

An additional function of the dispersal mechanism optimizes powder usage even further. As with all powder-bed fusion processes, the powder is spread across the top of the powder bed with a single pass of the recoater. At the end of the spread, inevitably there is some residual powder left over, which on the Calibur3 is then used to spread the subsequent layer. The Wayland team has developed a bidirectional recoating method that not only enables this subsequent pass using the residual powder from the previous pass, but also adds optimized dosing to the residual powder heap from the controlled volume dispenser. To put it another way, the Calibur3 features a self-regulating powder-dispensing mechanism that does not spread excess powder into an overflow like most other systems on the market. This in turn means that less powder is needed in the machine to complete a build, and it significantly reduces material waste.

“The new Calibur3 metal AM system clearly displays the holistic and intelligent approach of the first-class team of experts we have assembled—and continue to assemble—at Wayland,” says Will Richardson, CEO of Wayland Additive. “It is hard to overemphasize the innovation and hard work that the team has put into the new capabilities featured in the NeuBeam process. It has been the result of starting from scratch, building a new system from the ground up, with a cross-discipline approach. As we commercially launch Calibur3 in the next weeks, I am confident that the results will speak for themselves and our partners will start to see the benefits in real terms.”

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About The Author

Wayland Additive’s picture

Wayland Additive

Wayland Additive was born out of a high precision engineering team with a long and distinguished pedigree in the semiconductor industry, where electron beam widths are measured in nanometers and process instabilities are unacceptable. The use of and experience with eBeam technology in semiconductor manufacturing indicated that its use in additive manufacturing could be improved. Since 2015 a team of eBeam experts from the lithography world began to coalesce around solving the single most serious problem inherent in the eBeam AM process, the charging of the powder.