(SCC Press Release)

 

Somerset Community College’s (SCC) additive manufacturing program is pleased to announce

that it has successfully 3D printed numerous 316L stainless steel metal parts on multiple low

cost desktop 3D printers. Several of these parts were then TIG welded together with highly

successful outcomes. This project is one of the first applications where fully metal parts that

were 3D printed on a sub $600 desktop printer have been successfully welded together using

conventional welding techniques.

 

SCC’s process is based on Bound Metal Additive Manufacturing (BMAM) , predicted by

researchers to be one of the fastest growing methods of additive production over the next

several years. The SCC AM program faculty and staff started with several low cost FDM 3D

printers, typically less than $450 each. SCC then customized and upgraded them for metal

filament extrusion and better build plate adhesion resulting in a total price tag of less than $600

per printer. The metal infused filaments used were provided by Virtual Foundry and BASF. After

accounting for shrinkage and other production issues in the design phase, the parts were 3D

printed. SCC worked with sintering experts such as DSH Technologies to debind and sinter the

3D printed parts. The final step was to hand the parts over to SCC’s Welding department and let

them work their magic. SCC’s senior Welding Professor, Karl Watson, used Gas Tungsten Arc

Welding (GTAW), also known as TIG welding. Several fillet and groove welds were applied to

the original six pieces and the welding went very well, as seen in the photos of the cross

sections.

 

Modified low cost desktop 3D printer producing infused stainless steel plate

 

“The welds flowed very smoothly and we had very good penetration control,” says Watson.

“Because of the nature of 3D printing and research we have seen around the concept of welding

such parts, I expected to see more porosity in the weld, but that wasn’t the case with these

specimens at all. I am looking forward to doing some bend tests to determine the potential

malleability as well as welding other samples using SMAW, GMAW, and FCAW.”

Preliminary testing of the parts has also shown hardness values slightly less than stock 316L,

but microscopic inspection after finishing work has not shown any inconsistencies thus far.

Watson also noted that the heat dissipation during the welding process of the 3D printed

stainless was higher than conventional stock stainless.

 

Close up of several stainless steel 3D printed parts, including a ball valve
housing and a planetary gear assembly

 

From this success, SCC’s goal now is to bring this low cost metal 3D printing technology to

students, teachers, and the workforce throughout Kentucky. SCC will be providing training

workshops across the state in the assembly and set up of low cost metal 3D printers for select

educators in Kentucky high schools and community colleges. This work is funded by the

Kentucky National Science Foundation (NSF) EPSCoR (or Established Program to Stimulate

Competitive Research) grant, titled Kentucky Advanced Partnership for Enhanced Robotics and

Structures . As part of the project, SCC in partnership with Autodesk will also be providing

training on advanced design in additive manufacturing using Autodesk’s Fusion 360’s

Generative Design suite.

 

Eric Wooldridge, Director of SCC’s Additive Manufacturing program, is very excited about what

this technology will mean for Kentucky. “We are so very grateful for all of the funding and

support we have received from the NSF, USDA Rural Business Development, Southeastern

Kentucky Economic Development (SKED), the Office of Career and Technical Education and

Student Transition at the Kentucky Department of Education, and the Kentucky Highlands

Investment Corporation, as well as the support from local businesses that fully understand the

disruptive power of additive,” says Wooldridge. “Being able to bring truly low cost metal 3D

printing and advanced product design directly to schools and colleges across Kentucky is a

chance of a lifetime opportunity for us, and we are very excited to get started.”

 

Over the next few months SCC will be dialing in the equipment and their training process for the

low cost metal procedures, as well as collecting data on product performance. Wooldridge notes

that “there is a lot for us to learn about practical welding of 3D printed metal parts, especially

parts that have been produced on a desktop 3D printer. Factors of shrinkage, potential zones of

weakness, and the best welding practices are still to be determined. These are very exciting but

uncharted waters to be sure.”

Multiple welded specimens combined

SCC will be working with partners across Kentucky, including the University of Louisville and the

University of Kentucky, to integrate skills in low cost BMAM into the workforce. SCC will also be

working with Tennessee Technological University (TTU) to scale their work across state lines

through the support of the Mobile Additive Manufacturing Platform for 21st Century STEM

Workforce Enhancement grant from the NSF Advanced Technological Education (ATE)

program.

 

When equipment tests and other preparations are complete, SCC will be selecting training sites

across Kentucky for participating instructors to begin the process of transforming Kentucky’s

workforce. The goal is for the skills and experience in the additive manufacturing of both metals

and polymers to be the norm and not the exception. Once that training has begun and low cost

metal printing labs are established in educational institutions, SCC will search out other sources

of funding to set up the same training opportunities for Kentucky small businesses and

entrepreneurs to spur on their own innovations.

TIG welded specimen; butt joint with groove weld

“When you look at all the big investments in additive manufacturing by the aerospace and

automotive industries, the announcements from the Department of Defense, and the number of

products already on the market that are produced using 3D printing technology,” says

Wooldridge, “practical skills in this technology are what any advanced workforce needs. Having

a state-wide workforce that is capable of 3D printing metal parts at a fraction of the typical cost;

that’s just an innovation revolution waiting to happen.”

 

For more information on SCC’s Additive Manufacturing program, please visit

www.Somerset.kctcs.edu/3dprinting or check out their YouTube channel, The Additive Guru, dedicated to

3D printing https://www.youtube.com/user/cadscc . Additional examples of their work can also be found

on their social media platforms: facebook.com/cadd.lab , instagram.com/amlab115 , and

twitter.com/scclab115 .

 

SCC currently offers a certificate in Additive Manufacturing/3D printing and offers additional training

through the college’s Workforce Solutions program. To find out more about SCC’s additive

manufacturing/3D printing program, contact Eric Wooldridge at eric.wooldridge@kctcs.edu .

Somerset Community College is a comprehensive two-year institution of higher education. SCC has

campuses in Somerset and London, and centers in Clinton, McCreary, Casey, and Russell counties. For

admission and program information, visit our website at somerset.kctcs.edu .

 

Stainless steel parts produced on a desktop 3D printer, with the back left and
right plates having been welded together after printing

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