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UBC becomes first Canadian university to install GE Additive EBM Q20plus 3D printer

The university will leverage the technology to drive additive materials research

The University of British Columbia (UBC) has become the first Canadian university to install an Arcam EBM Q20plus 3D printer in a research setting. The installation of the GE Additive metal AM system at UBC was enabled by investments from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and will be used to bolster its Holistic Innovation in Additive Manufacturing Network (HI-AM).

HI-AM network

The Canada-wide HI-AM network was formed by NSERC to address the hurdles slowing the adoption of metal AM in Canadian industries. The goal of the network is to find solutions that will promote the use of metal AM across Canada’s various industries and to facilitate collaborations between research groups working in advanced materials processing and characterization, powder synthesis, alloy development, advanced process simulation and modeling, tool-path planning, controls, sensing and applications.

The HI-AM group, which brings together metal additive manufacturing experts from seven Canadian universities, is focused on four main research pillars:

  • Material development tailored with optimum process parameters
  • Advanced process modeling and couple component/process design
  • In-line monitoring/metrology and intelligent process control strategies
  • Innovative additive processes and additively manufactured parts
GE Additive UBC Q20plus
GE Additive Arcam EBM Q20plus machine at CEC Munich

UBC explores EBM

The team from the University of British Columbia that recently acquired a GE Additive EBM system is mainly focused on the second and third HI-AM research pillars. The research team consists of Steve Cockcroft, professor at the Advanced Materials Processing Group; Dr. Farzaneh Farhang Mehr, director of the university’s Additive Manufacturing Laboratory; and Professors Daan Maijer, Chad Sinclair, Yusuf Altintas and Rizhi Wang.

The university’s new Q20plus system, acquired with funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF), will enable the researchers to investigate advanced process modeling, intelligent process control strategies and other related issues associated with the adoption of AM.

The work being done by the UBC researchers combines industrial and laboratory experiments with mathematical modeling in the analysis, optimization and design of various industrial manufacturing processes. Within that field, the research is particularly interested in electron beam refining and casting of titanium alloys for the aerospace sector and advanced die casting of aluminum alloys for the automotive sector.

The newly installed Q20plus 3D printer will enable the team to develop robust and efficient numerical models that can be used as tools for simulating different aspects of the electron beam powder bed fusion process. Key areas in the research will include electron beam powder/melt pool energy transport and consolidation, and macroscale energy transport and thermal-stress induced component deformation.

GE Additive UBC Q20plus

The innovative research is expected to impact process productivity and part quality, enabling and supporting the adoption of EBM additive manufacturing in the aerospace, automotive, transport and medical industries.

“Additive (3D) metal printing will significantly expand the capabilities of what we can manufacture using structural metals. In the transportation sector, this opens up new opportunities for light-weighting and improving the efficiencies of aero-propulsion systems and automotive drivetrains—including both electric and convention heat engines,” Cockcroft said. “In the bio-medical sector, this technology will allow medical practitioners to customize the geometry of skeletal implants to an individual’s anatomy and utilize materials that are more compatible with biological systems, thus substantially improving patient outcomes.”

Dr. Farhang Mehr added: “The Arcam EBM Q20Plus machine is a unique piece of equipment. We hope to create an additive manufacturing laboratory at UBC in which users are not only encouraged to explore the capabilities of the equipment, but also get the chance to acquire a fundamental understanding of the additive manufacturing process, which is necessary to enable major breakthroughs in the field. We would like to introduce this technology to a wide variety of users including undergraduate students as a part of their course work, graduate students as a core part of their thesis research and our industrial partners, as a way of supporting them as they explore this exciting new technology.”

Notably, the installation of the Q20plus EBM system will enable the team to delve deeper into additive manufacturing metals to continue to push the technology towards full industrialization.

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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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