Il Sentiero International Campus is an industrial research center in the field of surface engineering and reliability, additive manufacturing and assembly technologies. Its services target high-tech mechanical markets such as, for example, the automatic machinery sector for the processing and packaging of food and medicine, automotive and aeronautics.
One of the flagships of the Il Sentiero International Campus research and development center is the expertise acquired in additive manufacturing processes: the study of processes and technologies, the development of additive solutions, the production of prototypes or limited series of components are just some of the activities carried out by Il Sentiero.
The industrial research center Il Sentiero International Campus is engaged in several areas in the field of additive manufacturing. A key area is the development of solutions for AM, design for additive manufacturing (DfAM), topology optimization, prototyping and reliability engineering. As well as the study of materials and processes, involving the study, choice and analysis of materials suitable for the application and the future working environment. The analysis of the characteristics of the materials and their behavior is possible thanks to the instruments present in the laboratories. The instruments allow the qualification of components in terms of mechanical and physical performance and resistance to corrosion, the study of the performance and applications of new materials, and the investigation of new post-processing technologies and mechanical and electrochemical properties associated. Thanks to its network, Il Sentiero International Campus can also organize training for its clients, related both to design for additive manufacturing and to the implementation of the technology in different companies. This training consists of the application of the notions proposed in class to case studies chosen by the client.
Essentially, in the field of additive manufacturing, Il Sentiero is committed to conducting industrial research by identifying the best solutions to the case study.
The strengths of Il Sentiero in the field of AM
Il Sentiero International Campus has specific know-how on materials and the choice of materials, as well as the ability to follow in-person surveys and laboratory tests.
Both in the experimentation phase and in the production of prototypes, the researchers have the ability to carry out all the tests necessary to fully characterize the material. This is also essential when developing process parameters, especially when investigating innovative materials.
According to Il Sentiero, many service providers simply manufacture the components and, when deemed strictly necessary, outsource these analyses.
The synergy of specific skills in technology, materials and processes, together with the ability to operate in laboratories with qualified personnel, is the ideal combination for a deep understanding of the processes and the results that can be obtained from the processes.
Il Sentiero’s additive manufacturing lab
The additive manufacturing laboratory of the international campus Il Sentiero covers 120 square meters at the headquarters in Magreta (MO). Four printers are installed inside the laboratory: two for metal alloys and two for polymer materials.
There are two Trumpf Sisma Laser-PBF machines for printing on metal: the MySint100 and the MySint300. The printers are qualified to print with AISI 316L stainless steel, Ti6Al4V titanium, AlSi10Mg aluminum and Böhler AMPO M789. The machines differ only in volume and print capacity, but the principle of operation is the same.
Printers for polymer materials, on the other hand, use two similar but different technologies. To print the most common thermoplastic materials, such as PLA, TPU and ABS, the center uses the Kentstrapper Mavis printer, which uses FDM technology. Its constructive simplicity and its large printing volume guarantee an easy change of material and the possibility of printing very large components (40x40x70 cm). It can also print using biopolymers. It is mainly used for the creation of supports for the laboratory and templates for the positioning of tools.
The second polymer printer is the Markforged X7, which uses a variation of FDM technology, continuous filament manufacturing. Thanks to this technology, it is possible to directly 3D print real composites (plastic material with reinforcing fibers). The printhead is equipped with two nozzles: the polymer (polyamide) comes out of one, and the filament for the reinforcement fiber comes out of the other. The fiber, which can be either carbon fiber, fiberglass, Kevlar fiber or high temperature fiberglass, allows the components to have a tensile strength that is only slightly lower than that of an aluminum alloy but with a much lower weight.
Case study 1 – Böhler
As mentioned, the study of material properties and process characteristics is one of the strengths of Il Sentiero.
For this reason, the Böhler steelworks collaborated with Il Sentiero between 2019 and 2020. In 2019, the company offered a new hybrid steel alloy, called AMPO M789, specifically for additive manufacturing. The alloy in question promised hybrid characteristics of 17-4PH steel and AISI 316L. Thanks to a master’s thesis at the Faculty of Materials Engineering of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, the material has been studied in depth, with emphasis on its corrosive behavior.
The results were then presented at scientific conferences.
Case Study 2 – AM Roughness Study
Among the disadvantages of using AM with metal is the challenge of surface finishing. Many components require a finish that cannot be achieved by the AM process alone. It also affects various properties, such as corrosion resistance. Therefore, it is necessary to have one or more post-additive steps to achieve the required surface roughness, in order to comply with the application requirements.
There are many post-processing techniques available to reduce surface roughness: from simple sandblasting to immersion in electrochemical baths.
At the request of a client, Il Sentiero undertook an industrial project that required the study of the main technologies currently available on the European market, evaluating the performance and in terms of achievable roughness. The large-scale project lasted about a year and a half and included several activities such as researching technologies, identifying suppliers, designing and implementing samples, tests, measurements, analysis of data and reports. The materials examined were AISI316 and Ti6Al4V.
The laboratory tests (roughness analysis, optical and electron microscope analysis, tomographic analysis) that have been developed have allowed Il Sentiero to assess the effectiveness of the different post-processing techniques, taking into account the roughness, surface “pollution” and material removal.
Today, the company has a good picture of the performance of the different technologies, which makes it possible to choose the optimal process to adopt in each case study – depending on the application and the cost.