A fundamental problem with materials and manufacturing at NASA is the need to rapidly, repeatably, and cost-effectively manufacture unique, defect-free, complex parts to build spacecraft at a wide range of size scales. Space vehicles must ensure safety and reliability throughout missions, the durations of which are ever-increasing as the bounds of space are pushed. Therefore, each component used in these vehicles must start with and maintain critical levels of structural integrity.
Additive manufacturing (AM) processes offer a solution to the challenges of manufacturing unique, complex parts rapidly, but can be expensive and error-prone. Powder-based AM processes use expensive and oftentimes hazardous feedstock and produce large amounts of waste material. Wire-based AM processes solve these problems, but are still limited in relation to repeatability, reliability, and the need for inspection to identify defects that significantly reduce part performance.
Solvus Global’s proposed solution is to implement a detection and feedback monitoring software integrated with multiple sensors for defect detection, enabling maximum information and decision-making power for wire-fed AM processes, specifically the high deposition rate Wire Arc AM (WAAM). Solvus Global will utilize their existing AM process monitoring platform, APEX, to collect, store and analyze data from WAAM process parameters and the integrated sensor-suite including laser profilometry and thermal imaging for surface monitoring, arc health analysis, and wire resistivity for feedstock quality assurance. When correlated to process parameters, these methods will improve the consistency of AM processes and establish the foundation for closed-loop control with real-time defect correction. Through this work, Solvus Global will prove the feasibility of using the proposed sensor suite for real-time defect detection during WAAM processing and will determine the path forward towards real-time correction of defects.
Improved repeatability and reliability of AM processes will benefit many of NASA’s high-priority missions and applications, including the Orion crew vehicle, the Space Launch System (SLS), commercial crew and commercial cargo programs, and science missions. Specifically, DRM 5 Asteroid Redirect, DRM 6 Crewed to NEA, DRM 7 Crewed to Lunar Surface, DRM 8 Crewed to Mars Moons, DRM 8a Crewed Mars Orbital, and DRM 9 Crewed Mars Surface Missions will all be enabled by Solvus Global’s technology.
Non-NASA markets for WAAM range from marine and automotive applications to renewable energy, oil & gas, and nuclear sectors. Any unique or complex components that need to be rapidly, repeatably, and cost-effectively manufactured and require structural integrity would benefit from improved reliability and repeatability in AM processes.