Today, additive manufacturing (AM) is dramatically changing the way that manufacturers produce end-use parts and components. Not surprisingly, analysis of the accuracy and repeatable tolerance range of AM has become a critical issue. If an AM part is integral to a safety–critical aerospace or medical application, it is essential to achieve dimensional and surface finish tolerance targets consistent with design intent. This is where metrology comes into perform the critical role of validating the quality of finished parts.
When producing critical AM parts, manufacturers must meet stringent tolerances — a role metrology systems have always played in manufacturing. Metrology sensors allow process monitoring and quality control, optimizing AM dimensional accuracy and surface quality.
Manufacturing “additively” opens up an array of issues that can influence the integrity of a finished product. It also introduces a unique set of surface characteristics that make the job of measuring and validating that much more difficult. In the search for relevant metrology critical to process control, companies are still trying to understand what to look for on and under the surface of an AM produced part — and how these relate to part functionality.