Sigma Labs and Materialise sign MoU to commercialize metal AM quality assurance system


Sigma Labs, a Santa Fe-based developer of in-situ quality assurance systems, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Belgian 3D printing software company Materialise.

According to the MoU the two companies will combine their expertise to develop an integrated in-situ quality assurance (QA) system for metal 3D printing with a view to commercializing the technology. 

Sigma Labs PrintRite 3D. Photo by Michael Petch
Sigma Labs PrintRite3D printed test gears. Photo by Michael Petch.

Materialise Control Platform

Founded in 1990, Materialise is an award-winning company that develops advanced software for the additive industry. For metal additive manufacturing, in particular, Materialise has the e-Stage metal support, which eases the removal of support in the post-processing stage. In the medical industry, Materialise’s Mimics Innovation Suite became the first AM software to receive FDA approval after the introduction of ‘software as a medical device’ clause. 

The Belgian company also makes the Materialise Control Platform (MCP), a product of proprietary algorithms used to control AM workflow in real-time. For example, in laser melting process MCP, with the help of thermal inspection, can be used to control the temperature to avoid warping and curling.

Materialise’ success in recent years has drawn attention from some of the biggest names in the industry, such as BASF, who has invested $25 million in the Belgian company.

Materialise 3D printer facility in Leuven, Belgium. Photo via Materialise
Materialise 3D printer facility in Leuven, Belgium. Photo via Materialise

Quality inspection in metal 3D printing

Some of the problems that could arise during metal 3D printing are geometrical anomalies and inconsistent quality between print runs. An example of this is a difference between two machines which may require different parameters to successfully 3D print the same object. A part manufactured in EOS M270 DMLS printer might not print accurately in the EOS M290 using the same parameters as the M270. And this can be due to a minor modification in the machine like improved inert gas flow control in the EOS M290.

To avoid such problems and control the 3D printing process in real-time, Sigma Labs developed PrintRite3D, a combination of hardware and software for use in metal additive manufacturing. The PrintRite3D bundle includes the PrintRite3D Sensorpak, PrintRite3D INSPECT and PrintRite3D CONTOUR. The Sensorpak is fitted with all the hardware required to collect data, such as sensors and cameras. And on the software side, the PrintRite3D Sensorpak is supported by INSPECT and CONTOUR, which monitor the metallurgical properties of metals during the printing process and report anomalies.

Earlier this year, the Sigma Labs was granted a patent for PrintRite3D by the U.S Patent and Trademark Office. Furthermore, PrintRite3D also received validation in a study by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Now, it has been revealed that Materialise and Sigma Labs will develop and commercialize an integrated in-situ quality assurance (QA) system for metal 3D printing.  The developed QA system will be commercialized under a joint agreement. 

This is not the first collaboration between the two companies. In 2014, Materialise had integrated its AM automation, control, and management software Streamics into Sigma Labs’ PrintRite3D.

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Featured image shows Sigma Labs PrintRite3D printed test gears. Photo by Michael Petch.





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