ORNL-Developing Next-Generation Manufacturing and Engineers

Published by Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Tennessee,
 USA, is working with additive manufacturing (AM) equipment manufacturers and end users to revolutionize the way products are designed and built. ORNL research and development in this crucial field are enabling a wealth of opportunities for product customization, improved performance, multifunctionality, and lower overall manufacturing costs. Not only does additive manufacturing remove the traditional limits on part geometry, but highly complex components can also be fabricated faster while consuming less material and using less energy. Additive manufacturing also eliminates the need for expensive part tooling and detailed drawing packages, causing a paradigm shift for the design-to-manufacture process.

ORNL has a long history of working closely with industry and offers world-leading capabilities in materials development, characterization, and processing. It also has specialized facilities for modeling and simulation, creating an unmatched environment for breakthroughs in additive manufacturing.

AM Build of Mesh Robotic HandORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (or MDF) includes comprehensive additive manufacturing capabilities. These technologies significantly impact numerous application areas, from aeronautic to robotic and automotive to biomedical. For aerospace components this design-to-manufacture process has already demonstrated the potential to reduce the buy-to-fly ratio from an industry average of 8:1 (that is, 8 pounds of material will produce 1 pound of aerospace-quality material) to nearly 1:1. The increased design flexibly has also enabled radical improvements in anthropomorphic designs for robotic manipulators—allowing internal routing of hydraulic and pneumatic lines for actuation—and reduced the design-cycle time from months to days. This revolutionary process also enables the customization of biomedical implants as well as surface modifications for increased biocompatibility.

And new fluid-powered systems, from large multi-ton material-handling equipment to very small biomedical devices, are being developed in partnership with several companies to create next-generation additive manufacturing systems, consumables, and application concepts.

What Is Additive Manufacturing?
Additive Manufacturing (AM) creates components directly from a computer model, adding material only where needed, which means unlimited design flexibility, decreased energy consumption, and reduced time to market.

Direct Manufacturing, an AM technology, uses an electron beam to melt powdered metal that is injected into the beam. Metal parts are built up layer-by-layer as the material rapidly cools and solidifies, similar to process in the video below.


ORNL and STEM Education

While advancing AM technologies, ORNL is introducing the next generation of engineers to the next generation of manufacturing by working with student teams from regional high schools to create prototypes, components, and working systems to support entries in the FIRST® Robotics Competition, a nationwide event that promotes science and engineering among high school students.

From the experience, the students learn to work collaboratively, experience real world application of classroom curriculum, and develop invaluable problem-solving skills.  Partnership with mentors at ORNL allows students to explore career opportunities while establishing lasting contacts with engineers in the community.

ORNL is a multiprogram science and technology laboratory managed for the U.S. Department of Energy by UT-Battelle, LLC. ORNL’s mission is to deliver scientific discoveries and technical breakthroughs that will accelerate the development and deployment of solutions in clean energy and global security, and in doing so create economic opportunity for the nation.

Our sincere appreciation to Jennifer A. Palmer and Dr. Ryan R. Dehoff of Oak Ridge National Laboratory for permission to share ORNL news.
Reprinted with permission of “Oak Ridge National Laboratory“.

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