3DXpert drives innovation in additive manufacturing at German research institute

March 18, 20245 minute read

If you want to break new ground in research, you need the right tools. In additive manufacturing, that means software that provides advanced technology parameter control, a wide range of functionality, a Design of Experiments solution, and in-situ inspection analysis for different machines. All of this is possible with 3DXpert. It comes as no surprise that researchers at an institute in Germany chose it for their work.

Based in Bremen, the Leibniz Institute for Materials Engineering, or Leibniz-Institut für Werkstofforientierte Technologien (Leibniz-IWT), conducts advanced research into materials, processes and components with a special focus on metallic structural materials and additive manufacturing.

Since 1950, the institute has occupied a unique place in the international research community, combining materials engineering, processing engineering and manufacturing technologies in a highly cooperative interdisciplinary environment. Today, these overlapping fields of interests continue to generate intriguing research opportunities with wide-ranging applications. 

Mika Altmann, researcher and PhD student at Leibniz-IWT, is currently working with Titanium alloy Ti64. His work focuses on 3D-printed titanium alloys, combining post-processing heat treatment with hot isostatic pressing to achieve new properties for aerospace, medical technology and other industrial applications

3D printed snowflakes

IWT-Snowflakes demonstrate the local adjustability of the shape memory effect. The “arms” of the snowflake can be modified in their chemical composition, which results in a difference of the shape memory effect when they're deformed.

Altmann’s colleague at Leibniz-IWT, Jonas Schmidt, works with iron-based shape memory alloys. These functional materials can be deformed and later revert to their original shape when they reach a certain temperature. Schmidt tests various combinations of chemical compositions and microstructures in pursuit of the best combination to maximise shape memory effect.

Both researchers use 3DXpert from Oqton to push their ideas forward. This fully integrated additive manufacturing software provides a comprehensive feature set for build preparation, simulation and inspection.

“In my work, I use additive manufacturing to produce a lot of cube samples,” Altmann says. “Then I change the printing parameters in 3DXpert to see how those changes impact the microstructure and properties of the titanium alloy.”

Schmidt’s experience with the software is similar. “I use 3DXpert primarily for the preparation of my experiments,” he says. “I also design demonstrators which allow me to clearly visualization of the shape memory effect. In the future, I also plan to use 3DXpert for thermal simulation.” 

A wider array of 3D printer brands 

Altmann and Schmidt selected 3DXpert because of its ability to work with a wide range of 3D printers. In addition, the software is attractive for research because it makes it possible to influence a very large number of parameters when preparing experiments.  

As 3DXpert is an industrial additive manufacturing software, it offered the IWT researchers the ability to choose from a much wider array of parameter combinations for their research. While this was a bit overwhelming at first, a short training course with an Oqton application engineer helped them get up to speed. 

3D printed Timaskus

The timaskus above shows the effect of local modification of the microstructure of Ti64 in the shape of the IWT logo. The microstructure of the part was locally modified using different parameter combinations. The different microstructures look different because of their varying oxidizability.

“For me, the high degree of functionality is an important aspect of 3DXpert,” Schmidt says. “Also, if you have one parameter set and need to apply it to many different parts or duplicate parts, the process is very fast and straightforward. There is no manual work.”  

Innovation in material investigation  

For now, Schmidt and Altmann both work on research projects in the field of additive manufacturing of metals. While Schmidt focuses on shape memory alloys, Altmann is working on microstructure modifications of titanium alloys that are inspired by biological structures. 

“I’m working on a demonstrator that uses biologically inspired microstructures to influence material properties, similar to how the rings in trees increase their structural strength,” Altmann says. “Soon I will be implementing this in 3DXpert, using various parameter combinations to change the bio-inspired structures.”  

The 3D-printed demonstrator consists of two different parameter combinations. When the surface is grinded and heat-treated in an oven at 700 °C for 10 to 15 minutes, the material oxidizes. Different microstructures oxidize at different rates, resulting in color variations on the surface. 

3D printed key of bremen

A 3D-printed coat of arms of the city of Bremen.

“With this demonstrator, we can explore many different properties  of the material,” Altmann says. “Next, we will try this on a smaller scale for ring structures to drive mechanical property improvements. Microstructure grading has an amazing potential for research and futhure application.” 

Learn more about 3DXpert software and how it can prepare, optimize, and 3D-print high-quality parts. 


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