Pioneering Metal-Based Additive Manufacturing

What if we could build something that was previously only possible in our imaginations? Additive manufacturing has the potential to do just that, and it is revolutionizing the manufacturing industry. In additive manufacturing, a pre-designed object is produced by successively adding layers of material rather than cutting away at it, as in traditional subtractive manufacturing methods (e.g., machining). 3D printing-based methods such as these have the potential to significantly expand the capabilities of traditional manufacturing, as they allow for increased product design freedom, reduced production time, and decreased waste of materials.

At the forefront of this technology are researchers from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, North Carolina State University, and North Carolina A&T State University. In collaboration with Siemens Energy Inc. and other industry partners, these researchers are in the vanguard of developing and advancing local applications of additive manufacturing. With their expertise, our state has the potential to position itself as a national authority on the adoption of additive manufacturing and technology.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT OF “Metal-Based Additive Manufacturing”

Manish Kumar: So we work on gas turbine design. It’s like, take a[n] ice cube in your hand and hold it on a welding torch. And your challenge is keeping the ice cube solid. What we do here is exactly the same. The temperature at which we burn these gases [is] twice the melting point of the metal that we use to make them. This brings a lot of interesting challenges to the work, and this is where the upcoming technologies like additive manufacturing [are] showing a lot of promise. It’s a new way to design.

Martin Koerdel: Additive manufacturing offers a lot of possibilities and flexibilities for Siemens in three areas, basically, which are: spare parts and also fast repair and also fast manufacturing parts. But the current state right now shows that there is still a lot of research necessary to make that productive to benefit the business even more.

The first contact I had to UNCC was actually the UNCC affiliates meeting from the Center of Precision Metrology, where the conversation started about metrology and its application to additive manufacturing, which then, eventually, actually led to the partnership that we are now forming.

Chris Evans: We have a very long, very strong relationship with Siemens, where we will start to really explore all the aspects that are needed for success in metal additive application.

In subtractive manufacturing, you say, ‘Okay, I’m going to start with a piece – a block, a rod – and then machine it; take away some parts of it.’ In additive manufacturing, you start from a metal powder. Now you can take that power, melt it and have it re-solidify. Do that in a way that you build up a structure. People talk about it as 3-D printing.

Cynthia Waters: Additive manufacturing will have the ability to design parts in geometries – in internally complex geometries – that we were not able to build before. This ROI funding is a true collaboration. We start with the raw powders. We will characterize the powders, then send that information back to NC State. Their part really is looking at building these additively manufactured parts. And UNC Charlotte, of course, is looking at the in situ characterizations. So, developing sensors to find defects that may form as it’s being created.

Chris Evans: I view this ROI grant as very much the start of something. There’s going to be applications in almost any area where there is currently manufacturing.

Martin Koerdel: What is even more beneficial in that partnership is the topic of collaboration between [the] university and the Siemens businesses. It offers us the possibility to work with the technologies that might be not mature at the moment. We can test them out. We can see where the benefit for Siemens businesses will be.

Chris Evans: The opportunity is building a very solid base of additive science and technology here in North Carolina.

Manish Kumar: Now additive gives us a very unique lever of okay, you’ve got an idea – okay, let’s print it. I will be fair in saying that we are only limited by our imagination now, where this technology can go.


Manish Kumar
Engineering Manager, Gas Turbine Combustion System Design, Siemens Energy Inc. Charlotte

Martin Koerdel, PhD
Head of Research Group CMI-US, Siemens Corporate Technology, Charlotte

Chris Evans, PhD
Professor, Director, Center for Precision Metrology UNC Charlotte

Cynthia Waters, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering North Carolina A&T University

Ola Harrysson, PhD
Professor, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Co-Director of CAMAL, NC State University