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Q & A - Dr. Richard Martukanitz Highlights Additive Manufacturing Advances at Penn State

Interview with Dr. Richard Martukanitz, Head of Laser Processing Division of Applied Research Laboratory

Dr. Richard Martukanitz of Penn State's CIMP-3D

Dr. Richard Martukanitz reviews the activities taking place at Penn State's Center for Innovative Matierals Processing through Direct Digital Deposition (CIMP-3D), and the sector of metal additive manufacturing.

Richard Martukanitz, Ph.D, is head of the Laser Processing Division of the Applied Research Laboratory and Director of the Center for Innovative Materials Processing through Direct Digital Deposition (CIMP-3D), a world-class resource for advancing and deploying additive manufacturing technology for critical applications. Martukanitz has over 25 years of experience in the development, application, and management of laser deposition technology. His specific research interest includes deposition of light alloys. He is a Fellow of the Laser Institute of America and chairs the AWS C7C Subcommittee for Laser Processing.

AMI: Can you just briefly sketch out activity your organization is involved with in the area of additive manufacturing?

Martukanitz:  At Penn State, we operate the Center for Innovative Materials Processing Through Direct Digital Depositions or CIMP 3D, as we refer to it. That organization is a university wide initiative at Penn State to focus our capabilities and expertise in the area of additive manufacturing, which is built on a very long legacy at the Applied Research Laboratory (ARL) that we have in this area. We’ve been able to utilize the expertise of ARL and key academic and research organizations within the university. That includes the College of Engineering, Material Science and Engineering Department, the Materials Research Institute, Smeal College of Business, Hershey Medical Center, etc. to focus these broad capabilities and expertise in selective areas for advancing additive manufacturing. Based on the collective expertise of the Center, we have been able to cultivate a significant portfolio in additive manufacturing that really falls into three primary categories. We have DOD activities with the cornerstone being the Additive Manufacturing Demonstration Facility of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). We have recently completed an Industrial Base Innovation Fund project under the direction of the Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center’s Benet Laboratories to develop additive technology for repair and manufacture of high value DOD components. We have several programs through the Office of Naval Research looking at cyber enabled manufacturing technology, as well as a program under the Office of Naval Research and the Naval Air Systems Command to develop techniques that will enable the accelerated certification of additive manufacturing for DOD.

We also have a very vast portfolio involving other government activities and private industry. We are part of the United technologies’ team under the Department of Energy ARPA-E Program looking at advanced motor concept using additive manufacturing technology. We also have two projects under America Makes sponsorship in the area of sensing and control technologies for both directed energy depositions processes power bed fusion processes. We were recently awarded a planning grant by the National Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST) for establishing a Consortium for Additive Manufacturing Materials, which we believe will be an important aspect of this technology. Finally, we also have several active programs with industries which I can’t discuss, but are obviously focused on materials, processing, and applications.

We made a significant investment in additive manufacturing. We have 14 full time faculty and staff working in additive manufacturing, 7 of them with PhDs 5 of those in Materials Science and Engineering. We also have a large cadre of students, approximately 20, that are actively involved in the Center’s activities. Our total faculty associates number 30, 10 of whom form the core of our activities. In total, there are approximately 50 scientist, engineers, and technologists at Penn State working on additive manufacturing.

AMI: What are the biggest, or possibly several of the biggest technology challenges that you really see facing the sector, that are obstacles to its wide spread application? 

Martukanitz:  To fully exploit additive manufacturing we need to start at the beginning of the process. What I’m referring to is the design stage. So in many instances, when you look at applying additive manufacturing it’s really not effective to say, “Build me this part today using additive manufacturing.” You really don’t get the advantages and benefits of the process. So you really want to say, “Given the capabilities of this very unique manufacturing technology, we are going to design your part for form, fit, functionality based on the unique capabilities that additive manufacturing may offer. We have a very active program in not only developing improved design capabilities and guidelines for additive manufacturing, but also in the educational areas of design analysis that is being led by one of our Co-Directors, Dr. Tim Simpson. Several of our students at the undergraduate and graduate level are working in the area of developing design guidelines for additive manufacturing and applying these techniques to some very advanced designs. We need to educate the design community as to the capabilities of additive manufacturing if we are going to fully exploit the technology.

Secondarily, I think the U.S. is in a good position of advancing powder bed fusion technology which was developed in Europe. When I say powder bed fusion, I’m utilizing the nomenclature established by ASTM to define laser or electron beam melting of a thin powder layer that is sequentially used to build complex three-dimensional structures. It is also referred to as DMLS (Direct Metal Laser Sintering) or DLM (Direct Metal Melting). Although Europe is still leading the process technology and most of these systems are produced in Europe, the U.S. has made a significant investment in the application of powder bed fusion technology, and in many instances really pushing advanced design and analysis of components produced in a similar manner.

Another important challenge for additive manufacturing is the establishment of process qualification and part certification protocols for this technology. Today, there are not industry acceptable standards and qualification techniques in the U.S. So we really need to establish these methods for the application of this technology.

AMI: You said the U.S. doesn’t have standards, does this imply that others do?

Martukanitz: I would guess that Europe is a little further ahead in that area, but not much. I say that because they have been fairly successful in being able to apply additive manufacturing in Europe for medical implants. We are just beginning this in the U.S. ASTM, who is the U.S. liaison for additive manufacturing standards to Europe, has an active program with the European ISO community in this area.

AMI: It seems that standards are always inherently, or at least potentially, political.

Martukanitz: Yes indeed and when you look at the whole ISO construction, you realize that they play an important role in adopting technology, and may affect our ability to grow our market share in global economy. We should be cognizant that there is a lot at stake as we go forward in negotiating international standards.

AMI: Of the various organizations, either private companies or other people that interact with yours, what would you like them to understand better about either the nature or the constraints of what you do?

Martukanitz: Well, you know additive manufacturing is not a panacea. It will continue to require an investment in science and engineering to reap the benefits of this unique manufacturing technology. As the technology is applied to applications having greater performance requirements, such as the use of metallic materials for critical applications, the need for sound process and materials understanding plays a pivotal role in whether the technology will be adopted. It is not as simple as “Print me this component.”

AMI: Would you identify the problems that you would like to see most quickly addressed in some sort of group action?

Martukanitz: I think we need better coordination at some level for qualification. We believe there is a strong need to establish some type of standard protocol for qualification and from the U.S. standpoint, this is an area we can lead. Another area that must be coordinated is the establishment of a data base of properties and performance characteristics representing additive manufacturing that supports the development of design data. The U.S., through federal and commercial funding, is investing a lot of time and effort generating this type of data. If we can coordinate these activities, and America Makes is in the process of developing such a system for the commercial sector, the U.S. also take the lead in this area.

Secondly I think the materials community has to be further engaged in additive manufacturing. Materials are being discussed, but the process will ultimately require new materials designed specifically for additive manufacturing, and this will require active participation of materials developers and suppliers. Our Technology Exchange on Materials for Additive Manufacturing that was conducted in 2013 had over 150 participants representing 12 materials producers, many end users. That venue illustrated the interest by the materials community in additive manufacturing.

Finally we need to have discussions concerning the operation and architecture of powder bed fusion systems. Until U.S. industry is able to understand the nuances of this process it will be difficult to certify parts being built using these systems. We need to have open discussions around architecture and information, data exchange, and standards for powder bed fusion systems if they are going to be contemplated for producing components for critical applications. Our perspective at CIMP-3D is primarily metals which inherently require greater process reliability and documentation. We want to build metallic parts for production that are going to operate in critical applications. This is much different than most applications involving polymer systems.

AMI: Any industry growing as rapidly as additive manufacturing and its various allied services will require generous amounts of capital. Do you see money coming into this area and especially flowing into smaller potentially innovative startup kind of communities?

Martukanitz: I have noticed the potential interest from venture capitalists or people having some investment interest in service bureaus, particularly with start-ups that are going to provide services to a broad range industry. That makes sense to me since there is some level of resident capabilities that is required to enter additive manufacturing of metals. You need to have capability of certainty of design, data exchange, materials and processing. It is a little harder for smaller companies to develop that type of capability and infrastructure but a design bureau can spread that investment over a broad range of industries or sectors.

AMI: Is that one of those areas where more communication or coordination might need to occur?

Martukanitz: I think what we really need to do as an industry is to get some successes in implementing additive manufacturing of metals under our belt to further spur the interest in this technology. GE is doing a marvelous job. They are literally carrying the flag right now and I’m sure you just saw the recent article on the GE fuel injector component and their investment in additive manufacturing technology. This appears to be a great application for additive manufacturing, and it will ultimately save them a lot of money. We need to replicate this story several times.

AMI:  What is your opinion on the problem that additive manufacturing might pose to the whole position of intellectual property? 

Martukanitz: Copyright law will play an important role here. Obviously it is not an area I spend a lot of time thinking about. But nevertheless, I think everyone involved has to be somewhat aware of this. We’re going to have the capability in the near future to take a design from anywhere, either off the cloud or from reverse engineering, and reproduce the part. So where does the design copyright end and where does it start? I don’t have an answer but I’m sure there are people concerned and worried about this.

AMI: Are there any sectors other than aerospace that you track or monitor to see what other developments are out there?

Martukanitz:  I think the ones that are on our radar now make sense, medical applications and aerospace – both air frames and engines. There are very good reasons why those applications are being chosen. In the case of air frame components, it’s the ability to produce large titanium structures more affordably; in the case of engine components it’s the ability to produce complex structures. In the case of medical implants it’s the ability to produce very unique features that lend themselves to implantation.

However, there is a growing interest in additive manufacturing for a variety of applications. As an example, for producing mechanical devices used for actuators. There’s typically a lot of design and engineering that goes into these components, and for the high value applications, the improvised performance that may be provided by additive manufacturing, and the relatively low production rates may the process attractive to a portion of this market.

AMI: We have heard that the adoption of composite technologies could be analogous to the adoption of additive technologies, because they were adapted by many of the same factors and spread over time. Do you think that is any analogy that offers any true insight?

Martukanitz: The development of composite structures isn’t a bad analogy in my opinion. In composite manufacturing, not only are you producing the structure or shape, but you are simultaneously creating the material, which is an important aspect of additive manufacturing. It’s not a bad analogy.

But we also know that people are still struggling with the application of composite technology after 20 years, so it may also illustrate the challenges ahead of us.

AMI: We have heard that additive will be adopted for products or applications where there isn’t a lot of price pressures and where additive could create solutions that were not really feasible otherwise. For example, expensive sporting goods, surgical apparatus or prosthetics where there is not a lot of price pressure.  Then there is a counter discussion which claims that what we will really see is additive used for mass customization and possibly even distributed manufacturing or point of sale customization.

Martukanitz:  I think what we need to be cautious about when we talk about additive manufacturing is that production of metallic components and polymer-based parts are vastly different. These two material systems, in many instances, represent dramatically different markets with much different requirements. Many times when people talk about additive manufacturing they don’t define the material, and I’ve never been a fan of applying generalities to additive manufacturing. I believe that the use of additive manufacturing for polymer-based systems, which was an outgrowth of rapid prototyping, we soon will be a relatively mature industry. The application of additive manufacturing of metals is certainly much different. The ability to quickly respond to design changes or market demand will play an important role in the adoption of additive manufacturing in general; whereas, the ability to improve performance or reduce cost will drive the applications for metallic system.

AMI: We have an example of a shoe store that sells shoes that are widely available, the major. But they do some kind of analysis and create a custom made insole that they give customers on the spot.  Presumably they use some sort of printer to knock those off in the store.  Do you think that’s an example of things to come?

Martukanitz: Yes and here’s an example with metals. A local sporting goods store has you swing a drive a few times. They take that information, analyze the data, and build you a customized club tuned for your body and the kinematics of your swing. By the way, they make it out of titanium but also deposit very hard material on the face, which results in great energy being transferred to the ball, and longer drives. It’s not too different and avid golfers are probably willing to spend the $400-$500 to improve their game.

AMI: Well there’s another example we hadn’t expected. There was an article about it in the New York Times on NY fashion week.  They wrote how the fashion world is kind of riveted by this, and it’s being utilized to knock off bangles and stuff, on an ad hoc basis. Apparently there’s a real difficulty in world of fashion sort of analogous to a Silicon Valley “valley of death” problem.

If you are a small organization or just a young designer starting out and have a backer it’s easy to manufacture 10 copies of a garment and put on a show.  But if you want to create higher quantities you largely have to go to an outside fabricator. There’s a lot of demand for these outside fabricators and they don’t take orders for small quantities.  It’s a very awkward moment because you can’t organically grow and have to go from nothing to some fairly high level of success. This industry is looking hard at additive because you can make smaller quantities, sell them and develop a name.

Martukanitz: It’s interesting what you have just mentioned. Philosophically, maybe the entire area of additive manufacturing is being driven by the continued need to completely customize markets. A society moves from mass production, additive manufacturing may open greater opportunities to personalized products. If that’s the case, we may find many industries being interested in easily producing very customized products through additive manufacturing.

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