Collaboration with customers and ongoing learning have been part of the Ocean Optics way for over 20 years. The resulting relationships and knowledge have created a vast continuum of “Applied Spectral Knowledge” and a global team of application experts. Now, the recently launched Ocean Lab Services offers that expertise via a spectrum of services including sample testing, collaborative product design, consultation and onsite equipment training (Figure 1 below).
Ocean Lab Services range from basic feasibility studies to more complex offerings including experimental design, machine learning and consultancy. Powerful new machine learning and custom algorithm development capabilities offer another level of insight for more complex challenges, where spectral data is processed and converted into the answers customers need.
The Lab Services team has worked with range of customers including Fortune 500 companies, budding start-ups and universities. In its first few months alone, the team has collaborated on customized solutions for aviation, partnered with medical industries to develop new technology, trained educators, and helped optimized aerospace manufacturing! Here are examples of other recent Lab Services project successes:
Ocean Lab Services Example Projects
- Confirmed UV band absorption characteristics of safety glasses
- Developed concentration models of oxygen in jet fuel
- Hosted a professor and lesson planner from one of Florida’s preeminent universities at our Applications Lab, to develop new hands-on course content
- Made reflection measurements of metal alloys to help explain laser-material interaction for 3D printing of aerospace engines (see the case study below for details)
- Monitored heme reaction kinetics over time using the ultra-fast Ocean FX spectrometer’s onboard data logging function
- Used machine learning to develop a method of classification for medical vial production quality, at real-time production speeds
The uses of spectroscopy and optical sensing are nearly endless, whether they enable scientific, technological or medical advancement.
Ocean Lab Services: A Case Study
A Case for Space
This is an Ocean Lab Services customer success story about how 3D printing and reflection spectroscopy can help the aerospace industry advance their rocket engine development capabilities, reducing production costs and improving fuel efficiency – and getting us all one step closer to the stars. Here’s the challenge: A private aerospace technology developer requires the capability to predict effective laser energy transferred to metal alloys to optimize efficiency of SLM (a 3D printing process).
What is SLM (Selective Laser Melting)?
SLM is a type of 3D printing, where a computer controlled laser scans the surface of the metal alloy powder bed to selectively melt a two-dimensional portion of a preprogrammed component, often called a “slice.” This process is repeated with a fresh layer of powder, where the laser scanning re-melts some of the previous layer to ensure full bonding between layers (Figure 2).
What is the Role of 3D Printing in the Aerospace Industry?
In the aerospace industry 3D printing is quickly changing the rules of rocket engine design, by offering low volume component manufacturing and endless design possibilities. Now engineers can design complex engine components for function, and are no longer limited by a component’s ability to be manufactured. This makes advantageous design optimizations possible, such as thin walls, built-in support structures, and internal tubing for cooling or liquid transfer. The low volume reduces production costs and the design optimizations improve fuel efficiency, both of which are imperative for aerospace industry expansion.
What are the Difficulties of Choosing Parameters for Each Metal Alloy Material?
There are many parameters to choose when designing a component: laser speed, powder layer thickness, distance between scans, and laser power, just to name a few. Choosing the 50+ program parameters that will transfer just enough energy to fuse alloy particles — without damaging the material — is complex and requires machine learning. The ability to control the laser processing of metal materials and effectively fuse them into a strong, solid part in SLM depends greatly on understanding the laser-matter interaction. Help in determining how much energy will be transferred or reflected from the different powders or fused solids is needed.
How Lab Services Used Reflection Spectroscopy to Help Determine Laser-Metal Interactions
A recent Ocean Lab Services customer requested a spectral study of their proprietary SLM metal alloy in both powder and solid form. Before investing in a spectrometer for their work, the customer selected our affordable Fixed Price Insight feasibility study option. This is a simple, flat-fee service that’s ideal for basic testing and setup evaluation. For this laser-metal interaction study, we recommended the QE Pro spectrometer for its ability to detect the low levels of light often seen in diffuse reflection measurements. Also, we optimized the system and accessories, then took repeatable measurements and returned a full report to the customer. Understanding of the effective laser energy transferred to each sample type was provided in this optical reflectance study, by showing where the different alloy samples reflect or absorb energy in the 3D printer laser wavelength range. The customer found this information critical to improve the efficiency of their printing parameters, because the absorption of the incoming energy into the powder and solid alloy alike is dependent on laser wavelength. Because of the study, the customer invested in its own spectrometer system and will use our onsite training program to bring important new insight on laser-metal alloy interactions in-house.
Laakso, P., Riipinen, T., Laukkanen, A., Andersson, T., Jokinen, A., Revuelta, A., Ruusuvuori, K. Optimization and Simulation of SLM Process for High Density H13 Tool Steel Parts, Physics Procedia, Vol. 83, 2016, Pages 26-25 (open access)
SLM Solutions, Aviation and Aeronautics, at https://www.slm-solutions.com/industries/aviation-and-aeronautics
Spears, T.G., Gold, S.A. In-process sensing in selective laser melting (SLM) additive manufacturing. Integrating Materials and Manufacturing Innovation, 2016 5:2 (open access)