Software developer nTopology has signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) with the aim of advancing AM capabilities through integrated software toolkits. Through the collaboration, nTopology will work with ORNL to embed the latter’s expertise into the nTop Platform with an eventual view to commercialize the resulting software tools.
Working in cooperation, the partners will combine nTopology’s nTop Platform software capabilities with ORNL-developed machine control capabilities for large-scale polymer 3D printing systems. The integration of these capabilities will reportedly help to advance design for AM through improved design and modeling controls. The partnership is also seeking to develop reusable, configurable templates for end users of the Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) at ORNL.
“The team at ORNL is undertaking some of the most cutting-edge research and development of advanced-manufacturing processes in the world,” said Duann Scott, Vice President of Partnerships and Business Development at nTopology. “Capturing that expertise and making it available as toolkits within nTop Platform will not only enable ORNL, but all nTop users, to leverage that expertise to design and manufacture the most advanced products in the world, and space.”
The CRADA agreement is divided into two phases. In the first, the partners will develop a toolkit for the nTop Platform geared towards optimizing design and print preparation for the large-format Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) technology. The goal of the first phase is to establish direct connectivity between nTopology’s software and ORNL’s slicer to fabricate parts on BAAM systems.
In phase two, ORNL and nTopology will address other 3D printing technologies, including Electron Beam Manufacturing (EBM), Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS). For EBM, the partners will create a toolkit for engineering direct metal grain growth. For FDM, they will create a toolkit for designing honeycomb infill based on circle packing and simulation. Finally, nTopology will develop simulation-based optimization of support structures for BAAM, EBM and DMLS.
“We look forward to collaborating with nTopology to enhance large-scale polymer 3D printing capabilities and anticipate the development of novel software to improve printing processes,” said Michael Borish, ORNL’s lead researcher on the project. “As a leader in advanced manufacturing, ORNL works with industry to help them bring new technologies, such as the nTopology software toolkit, to the marketplace.”
The overall aim of the CRADA is to advance large-format polymer 3D printing by optimizing build speed and use of materials. The software-based partnership could also lead to lower production costs thanks to reduced material consumption and machine cost amortization.