The US additive manufacturing innovation institute America Makes has announced a new Rapid Innovation Call (RIC) totaling $500,000 in funding, for projects that will advance the maturation of 3D printing technologies. 

The RIC will focus on six technical topics ranging from in-situ monitoring and qualification to defect detection and lightweight design methods, in a bid to address critical areas of need within the additive manufacturing sector. 

Today’s RIC announcement is incredibly exciting as it represents a concerted effort by our membership community at all levels – from members to our Roadmap Advisory Group and our Executive Committee – to strategically prioritize our investment in the RIC technical topics to what will best benefit our industry the most next,” said Brandon D. Ribic, America Makes’ Technology Director. “The America Makes membership community is truly working together to drive the direction we take to mature and advance AM technologies.

“We anticipate the outcomes of this RIC to make a significant impact in addressing critical areas of need.”

The America Makes building in Youngstown, Ohio. Photo via America Makes.
The America Makes building in Youngstown, Ohio. Photo via America Makes.

America Makes’ latest RIC

Funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, America Makes’ latest RIC is all about accelerating the maturation of 3D printing technologies. Through advancing areas of design, software, processes and the Internet of Things (IoT), the RIC will help support the organization’s technology roadmap.

A total of six topics are addressed by the RIC, the first of which centers around using in-situ monitoring methods to understand build interruptions during the additive manufacturing process. Currently, monitoring research often focuses on continuous operations of 3D printing processes, and the goal of this topic will be to gain a better understanding and quantify processing conditions when such processes encounter various forms of interruptions. 

The second focus of the RIC is to leverage existing 3D printing data to create additive manufacturing part families and improve product qualification and certification. Through increasing the amount of validated additive manufacturing data in the public domain, the project aims to drive the broader adoption of 3D printing in sectors where part qualification and certification is critically needed, such as in aerospace, medical, and aviation.

Topic three of the RIC will seek to apply hybrid additive manufacturing approaches to fix various 3D printed product and material defects. Participants in this project will develop and demonstrate reliable methods of mitigating defects during the printing process and will also validate techniques to remedy defects during builds. 

Moving on to the fourth technical focus of the RIC, participants will seek to advance in-situ molten pool temperature measurement methods for 3D printing reactive materials. The project will explore how to accurately and reliably measure molten pool surface temperatures in order to correlate processing parameters for material microstructures in metal 3D printing. 

Meanwhile, the fifth topic of the RIC will look into advancing lightweight design methods for 3D printing thin walls and struts and therefore advance the processability of these types of structures. The project aims to foster a deeper understanding of the manufacturability of lightweight designs and structures in order to increase their use in the automotive, aerospace, medical, and energy sectors.

Finally, the sixth area of focus looks at how IoT technologies can enhance the performance of 3D printed products and processes. Participants in this project will use IoT technologies on digital data extracted from additive manufacturing processes to quantify, assess, and improve the performance of 3D printed products, and quantify their quality.

The submission deadline for applications to take part in the RIC is 5pm EDT on September 2nd, 2021. The awards announcement is expected to take place on September 20th, with at least five awards predicted to be handed out with maximum federal funding of $100,000 available for each. Applicants must be America Makes members, and further information on participating in the RIC can be found here

America Makes has been awarded a $322 million budget by the AFRL to drive the adoption of 3D printing technologies. Photo via America Makes.
America Makes has been awarded a $322 million budget by the AFRL to drive the adoption of 3D printing technologies. Photo via America Makes.

Funding initiatives to support 3D printing

Funding support programs such as the latest RIC from America Makes are an effective way of nurturing innovation in the 3D printing industry. In the past year alone, the organization has launched multiple funding initiatives to improve products, processes, and materials in order to increase the adoption of additive manufacturing.

Last summer, America Makes launched its Open Source-Additive Scanning Implementation Strategy (OASIS) Challenge with a $68,000 prize pool, inviting applicants to submit novel open-source scan strategy codes, algorithms, and methods to help advance laser-based powder bed fusion technologies. A few months later, the organization awarded $2.3 million in funding across three project calls to accelerate 3D printing adoption and address various supply chain needs.

In February this year, America Makes launched a RIC focused on advancing the qualification and certification of 3D printed parts, while in June the organization announced a new Open Project Call (OPC) with the goal of accelerating the development of 3D printing technologies to meet the demands of businesses and the armed forces. Totaling $1.6 million in funding, the OPC is seeking to deploy novel, cost-effective, and energy-efficient 3D printing technologies to advance America Makes’ technology roadmap.

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Featured image shows America Makes booth #965 at RAPID 2019. Photo via America Makes.