The ability to accurately assess the structural integrity of 3D printed parts is a critical step in advancing additive manufacturing (AM). Oak Ridge National Laboratory has identified fault detection and overall part quality as one of the fundamental challenges that is currently limiting the use and applications of polymer-based additive manufacturing. Therefore, the quality assurance and inspection methods of additive manufacturing have been pursued unremittingly in academic and industrial circles.
Researchers at Vanderbilt University have developed a non-destructive testing method for 3D printed parts that uses gold nanoparticles to visually identify defects, such as missing print layers that occur during the manufacturing process. These defects might be caused by a clogged print nozzle, poor material extrusion, or other factors. If defects are not found, they reduce the overall strength and performance of printed parts and materials, leading to premature failure of materials.What's revolutionary about this new process is that the method of finding defects is essentially embedded within the material.
The technology is also commercially viable and can be extended to industrial applications, as other nanotechnology based on nanoparticles, as shown by the use of quantum dots in consumer electronics.