June 22, 2021 — Southwest Research Institute will create a searchable database of additive manufacturing (AM) projects and components. The project is supported by $50,000 in funding from America Makes and will utilize data management tools created by the Institute.
Additive manufacturing is a novel process that uses 3D printing or rapid prototyping to build an item by layering plastic, metal and other materials for a custom, computer-generated design. The additive manufacturing industry is expected to grow to $51 billion by 2030, according to an April 2021 report by Lux Research. Because AM creates sturdy components with intricate design qualities, it appeals to a wide range of users, including the aerospace, medical and manufacturing industries.
America Makes, a Manufacturing USA and Department of Defense innovation institute is dedicated to innovating and accelerating additive manufacturing by collaborating with its 200+ member organizations from industry, academia, government, non-government agencies, and workforce and economic development resources.
“Additive manufacturing is a complex process,” said SwRI Research Engineer Shengyen Li. “There are hundreds of variables involved in this process and having a searchable database would be an exceptional tool.”
Li will work with an existing database that includes numerous components from over 200 AM projects. AM projects begin as computer-aided design models, which are then saved as files that can be uploaded into 3D printers for metal and plastic additive manufacturing. This project will help categorize and sort those files to help engineers identify AM projects of interest.
“It’s a potential gold mine,” said Li, a member of SwRI’s Materials Engineering Department, which is leading several additive manufacturing research projects. “The problem is that it’s not currently searchable.”
A searchable database would allow engineers to review previous America Makes additive manufacturing projects.
“If you’re an engineer creating an engine blade using additive manufacturing, you could search the database and look for existing designs that are similar,” Li said. “Instead of starting from scratch, you’re learning from what others have done.”
He will utilize a data informatic system previously created to archive experiment data for an SwRI internal research and development project.
“Our data management tool can take metadata and keywords from documents and upload them to the database,” Li explained. “This helps us distinguish files and make them searchable.”
The searchable database will be available to members of America Makes. Li plans to complete the initial database in the fall before discussions begin on further development of the project.
For more information, visit https://www.swri.org/industries/materials-science or contact Joanna Carver, +1 210 522 2073, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, TX 78238-5166.