NASA awarded the SMU’s Research Center for Advanced Manufacturing a grant in the amount of $992,000 to further develop a Multi-fabrication (MultiFab) system for rapid manufacturing and/or repair. The proposed concept of the multi-fabrication manufacturing equipment provides the most concentrated part creation ability in the world today. The recently issued patent No. 6,940,037, “System and Method for Controlling Welding Parameters in Welding-based Deposition Process”, as well as the three approved patent applications in 2005: “System and Method for Fabricating and Repairing Part”, ”Powder Delivery System and Method”, and “System and Method for Controlling the Size of the Molten Pool in Laser-based Additive Manufacturing” reflect the concept of the multi-fabrication manufacturing technology.
In the same setup on one computer-controlled fabrication equipment platform, the following operations could be performed: three additive operations (deposition of metal by welding, micro-plasma powder cladding and laser cladding), multi-axis high-speed machining, scanning for reverse engineering, and in-situ and post-processing inspection.
The prototype of the MultiFab system will consists of a 4 kW fiber laser, a six-axis robot, a vertical machining center with automatic tool and pallet changers, a power source for micro-plasma powder cladding, a power source for micro gas tungsten arc welding, and a number of closed-loop control systems.