Putting EBM at the heart of additive materials research in Canada

June 26, 2019

The Canada Foundation for Innovation, the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund and the University of British Columbia (UBC) are bringing electron beam additive manufacturing technology to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Holistic Innovation Network

With major investment from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Holistic Innovation in Additive Manufacturing Network (HI-AM) brings leading metal additive manufacturing experts from seven Canadian universities together to investigate the fundamental scientific issues associated with pre-fabrication, fabrication and post-fabrication of components manufacturing by a range of additive manufacturing technologies with a primary focus on structural metals.

The overall goal of the network is to provide realistic, transferable solutions to encourage the adoption of metal additive processes by the Canadian manufacturing industries. It facilitates collaboration between Canada’s leading research groups in advanced materials processing and characterization, powder synthesis, alloy development, advanced process simulation and modeling, precision tool-path planning, controls, sensing and applications.


Investing in Innovation

The HI-AM network is focused on the four pillars of research:

  1. Material development tailored with optimum process parameters
  2. Advanced process modeling and coupled component/process design
  3. In-line monitoring/metrology and intelligent process control strategies
  4. Innovative additive processes and additively manufactured parts

Steve Cockcroft, a professor at the Advanced Materials Processing Group at the University of British Columbia, his colleagues Dr. Farzaneh Farhang Mehr, director of the university’s additive manufacturing laboratory, and Professors Daan Maijer, Chad Sinclair, Yusuf Altintas and Rizhi Wang are all focused on the second and third pillars.

To facilitate their work, the university has recently acquired a GE Additive Arcam EBM Q20plus machine, with funding support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF).

UBC is the first university in Canada to incorporate a Q20plus system in a research setting and the only machine of its type on the North American west coast.


Electron Beam Melting in R&D

Professor Cockcroft’s and colleagues’ work combines both industrial and laboratory experiments with mathematical modeling in the analysis, optimization and design of several industrial manufacturing processes, focusing principally on two light metal processing technologies:

  • Electron beam refining and casting of titanium alloys, for the aerospace sector
  • Advanced die casting of aluminum alloys, for the automotive sector

The team at UBC focuses on understanding and quantifying the complex transport processes occurring in commercial operations to enable gains to be achieved in process productivity, energy efficiency and product quality and performance.

The addition of the Q20plus system will support the team at UBC in developing novel, robust and efficient numerical models that will become the new tools for simulating different aspects of the electron-beam-based powder-bed-fusion (PBF) process.

Key focus areas include: electron beam-powder/melt pool energy transport and consolidation and macroscale energy transport and thermal-stress induced component deformation.

The outcome is expected to significantly impact process productivity, part and component quality, thus enabling and supporting the adoption of electron beam technology in the aerospace, automotive transportation and medical sectors.

The Q20plus with its larger platform, updated electron gun and control system will enable the UBC team not only to perform basic research, but to also demonstrate the capabilities of this technology to local industries and potential end-users.

“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.  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,” said Professor Steve Cockcroft.

“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,” said Dr. Farzaneh Farhang Mehr.

“The Arcam EBM Q20plus system will provide state-of-the-art additive manufacturing capabilities for metal 3D printing to our research and teaching infrastructure at UBC. This turnkey system will be used by graduate students to develop new knowledge on metal additive manufacturing processing to enable printed part quality improvements and process efficiency enhancements. The facility will also serve as a learning platform for undergraduate students in the Materials Engineering and the new Manufacturing Engineering programs at UBC,” said Prof. Daan Maijer, Head of the Department of Materials Engineering, the University of British Columbia.


Materials drive additive forward

The HI-AM network maps to the NSERC’s vision of securing Canada’s leadership in additive manufacturing. The country’s continued investment in additive innovation and a unified commitment to materials science research and development is helping scientists develop new processes and materials that will ensure additive manufacturing can fulfil its full potential.

With the adoption of additive comes an increased demand for a better understanding of materials at a range of length scales from the macro to the micro.

“Materials scientists are working hard to answer questions that solve some of the challenges that additive presents. At the same time, they are looking further afield to anticipate and respond to future requirements. To set scientists up for success, we need to put the best technology and innovation in the hands of faculty and researchers,” said Dr. Behrang Poorganji, director of materials technology, and a member of the HI-AM network’s scientific advisory board.

“The Arcam EBM A2X system has long been a popular choice with the research community globally, so now we’re excited to see how Steve and Farzaneh will put the Q20plus through its paces and look forward to seeing the exciting outcomes of their research,” added Poorganji.


electron beam melting r&d