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Pitt researchers awarded over $1 million to advance next-gen 3D printed turbine parts

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Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh’s reputable Swanson School of Engineering have been awarded over $1 million by the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) and the university to develop a quality assurance method for additive manufacturing next-generation gas turbine components.

The DoE, which supports various grant, loan and financing programs, awarded the Pitt researchers the amount of $802,400 for the AM project, while the university contributed additional finances worth $200,600 (for a total of $1,003,000). With the funding, the research team led by Xiayun (Sharon) Zhao, PhD, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Pitt, will embark on a three-year project to develop quality assurance processes for 3D printed gas turbine components.

Pitt $1M grant turbine components
Dr. Xiayun Zhao, PhD, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Zhao will work closely with Albert To, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials at Pitt, and Richard W. Neu, professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Mechanical Engineering, to develop a cost-effective method for quickly evaluating hot gas path turbine components (HGPTCs) made using laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) systems. The research will leverage machine learning technologies and will seek to evaluate the components both in-process and offline.

“LPBF AM is capable of making complex metal components with reduced cost of material and time,” said Dr. Zhao. “There is a desire to employ the appealing AM technology to fabricate sophisticated HGPTCs that can withstand higher working temperature for next-generation turbines.

“However, because there’s a possibility that the components will have porous defects and be prone to detrimental thermomechanical fatigue, it’s critical to have a good quality assurance method before putting them to use. The quality assurance framework we are developing will immensely reduce the cost of testing and quality control and enhance confidence in adopting the LPBF process to fabricate demanding HGPTCs.”

In addition to the more than $1 million in funding, the research team will also be supported by its industrial partner on the project, ANSYS, an expert in simulation software.

Dr. Zhao joined Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering last year, demonstrating the university’s growing interest and commitment to additive manufacturing research. Her background and research are a boon to the project at hand, as she specializes in real-time process monitoring research and measurement science and control technologies for additive manufacturing.

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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