Engineer Wins DARPA Young Faculty Award for Multi-Laser Additive Manufacturing

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Amrita Basak, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Penn State, has received a $498,235 Young Professor Award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) over two years for her work on prediction and prevention of thermal deformation in additive multi-laser manufacturing (AM).

The DARPA Young Faculty Award, according to the program websiteidentifies “rising stars in junior research positions… [to] develop the next generation of academic scientists, engineers and mathematicians who will devote a significant part of their careers to [Department of Defense] and national security issues.

Basak will use the prize to create computer models to predict the ways parts created with a nickel-based material known as Inconel Alloy 625 can warp during the AM process. These predictions would allow researchers to calibrate AM equipment accordingly to avoid these faults. It focuses on an AM method called laser powder bed fusion and, more specifically, how to use multiple lasers at once to build layered parts, which takes much less time than single-shot AM. single laser.

“Even though this method is time-efficient, it has problems, especially warping: parts can bend during manufacturing,” Basak said. “We are trying to develop computer models and an experimental framework to find a way to build a part with minimal distortion using multiple lasers.”

To make accurate predictions about potential deformation, Basak said the project requires input from researchers from multiple fields, including manufacturing, computer modeling and artificial intelligence.

Based on the specifications of the laser powder bed fusion technique and the desired material, Basak will first develop numerical models to predict potential deformations. Then she will work to improve the process with scanning optimization. This type of computational work helps identify the optimal settings in a given simulation, such as the best paths for multiple lasers moving simultaneously.

Basak gave the analogy of travel to explain how optimization works.

“Think of how many ways you can get from here to, say, India,” she said, pointing out the multiple options for mode of transport, route, duration, and more. “We can’t really assess the millions of options, because it would probably take a lifetime to do it – even with computer modeling it would be difficult.”

A person could consider their various options when deciding to fly, and a search engine could produce possible flights based on specific dates and locations. But there are still so many potential choices that could result in an optimal or less than ideal trip. Optimizing the scan path for additive manufacturing helps define the best path and produce the best result – in this case, minimal deformation.

“This is an example of high-risk, high-reward research,” Basak said. “The field of predictive computer modeling for scan path optimization is still nascent for AM powder bed fusion with one laser, let alone multiple lasers. This work is so new that there are many opportunities to fail, but also, if it works, we can bring something entirely new to literature.

Basak said the mentorship she received at Penn State was what ultimately encouraged her to pursue such a challenging project. She specifically credited former DARPA winner Tak-Sing Wong, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering and is affiliated with the Materials Research Institute, as well as Tim Simpson, Paul Morrow Professor of Design and Manufacturing. engineering, and Ted Reutzel, director of the Center for Innovative Materials Processing Through Direct Digital Deposition, who offered guidance throughout the application process. She also acknowledged the advice of her department’s mentor, Zoubeida Ounaies, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Convergence Center for Living Multifunctional Material Systems.

“I am grateful that so many people at Penn State have agreed to take the time to counsel me and help make this DARPA award and research possible,” Basak said.

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