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Driving the Additive Manufacturing Revolution

Located at The University of Texas at El Paso, the Keck Center is a unique multidisciplinary research facility focused on the use and development Additive Manufacturing (AM) technologies with primary focus areas in AM Technology Development, Engineered and Structured Materials, and Advanced AM Applications.

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About the Keck Center

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Expert Solutions Provider 

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Research

 

Additive Manufacturing technology allows us to take a computer-aided design (CAD) of an object and quickly crate a 3D model, mold, or functional part by precisely building layers of material. It is an exciting technology that explores new worlds of research, limited only by the imagination.


Facilities

 

The Keck Center occupies over 13,000 square feet of floor space and has more than $8 million in research infrastructure, including over 50 AM systems and combined facilities for advanced manufacturing, metrology and reverse engineering, materials characterization and testing, and synthetic and analytical chemistry.

Services

 

Our services can help you achieve your goals, providing your company with a competitive advantage through access to our vast selection of 3D printing machines and testing equipment. Fast turnaround and excellent quality of manufactured parts have always been our priority when delivering your final product.


First Satellite Center of America Makes

 

In August 2015, UTEP was selected as the first satellite center of America Makes. The goal of America Makes is to expand its current regional, industrial, and technological footprint while further maximizing the reach and capabilities of this satellite center through enhanced collaboration. A ribbon cutting ceremony hosted The Honorable Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

 

 

Transforming AM at UTEP

 

Our mission is to lead the Additive Manufacturing (AM) transformation through multidisciplinary activities that include education, research, outreach, technology development and commercialization, and industrial partnerships.

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Connect with the Keck Center

 
 
 

Global Test Artifact Data Exchange Program (GTADExP)

Welcome to the Global Test Artifact Data Exchange Program (GTADExP) – a program dedicated to the increasing industrialization of metal laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) additive manufacturing (AM) through extensive experimentation and diligent data analysis of a holistic, compact test artifact. 

The program uses a patent pending test artifact (requiring only 25 cm3 of solid volume during a build) that enables the community to evaluate process metrics such as GD&T, microstructure (bulk and thin features), residual stress, distortion, chemical composition, surface integrity, powder removal, mechanical performance (tensile), and more.  Each artifact can be analyzed by the user or the program hosts within UTEP’s W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation, following established measurement methods and procedures.  Ultimately, this community effort will provide massive data sets for LPBF processes, shedding light on the true readiness levels for metal component manufacturing in the AM industry.

Registered program participants will have access to full program details – such as access to the artifact file required for printing; required measurement methods and protocols; instructions for data management; and, ultimately, access to the data generated during the program.  The program goal is to have a minimum of 100 artifacts analyzed by the end of 2021 produced by LPBF machines around the world.  There is no specific material system or LPBF machine designated for the program, although it is anticipated that much more data will be generated for more commonly used materials, such as Ti-6Al-4V, IN718, IN625, and AlSi10Mg, to name a few. 

Registration and acceptance required for participation. 

In part, registered participants agree to the following:

  • The program is intended to significantly advance knowledge of current manufacturing capabilities of LPBF – only organizations able to provide full fabrication details are eligible to participate.
  • Participation requires analyzing the artifact according to established methods and protocols – the program hosts can assist with all or part of the analyses (There are limited resources available for the host to perform analyses for program participants, and standard usage fees may apply – coordination at all stages with program host encouraged to ensure program success).
  • All data generated from the build and test artifact must be uploaded to the program database – even for failed builds. A brief training will be provided for data management.
  • At a minimum, program participants agree to analyze (or have the host analyze) the following:
    • Porosity in the xy plane and at least one build direction (xz or yz) plane
    • Mechanical and chemical analysis
  • All publications arising from use of the artifact must acknowledge the program
  • Feedback on the design of the artifact from program participants is encouraged; however, no modifications of the artifact by program participants are allowed – each participant will have a unique label on the artifact.


Questions on the program can be directed to: 
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See the global test artifact here, manufactured from Ti6Al4V on the AconityONE laser powder bed fusion system at the the Keck Center!

 

Drive AM

Drive

 

Mission: To produce a superior AM-educated military, domestic manufacturing workforce, and defense supply chain

The DRIVE AM program trains at three levels of proficiency, each targeting soldiers, technicians, operators, engineers, DoD support personnel, personnel transitioning from the military, or veterans that are (1) in active roles in the military or DoD, or (2) in support of DoD through the defense manufacturing supply chain (including new AM-focused businesses  created as a result of DRIVE AM and DRIVE 3D).

AM Foundation – Provides introductory education in AM process categories, design and CAD, reverse engineering, engineering drawings, intended build interruptions, and other introductory areas that include hands-on activities built around the AM process workflow for a polymer material extrusion desktop 3D printing system

AM Specialty – Building upon AM Foundation, select individuals can pursue specialties in material extrusion or laser powder bed fusion. The most comprehensive AM Specialty program offered is the 15 UTEP credit hour Graduate Certificate in 3D Engineering and Additive Manufacturing. AM Specialty webinars on content for each proficiency topic are also offered.

AM Authority – This designation was designed for individuals with a high level of proficiency in a specific AM focus area, allowing such individual to make informed decisions on AM use and applications. Two AM Authority designations are offered through this program:  AM Authority on Laser Powder Bed Fusion (AM Authority on LPBF) of Metals and AM Authority on Material Extrusion (ME) of Polymers. 

A K-12 STEM Education and Community Outreach Program, known as DRIVE 3D, is offered to ignite interest in STEM career paths and generate a talent pipeline for DoD as well as advocate economic advancement within underrepresented communities of El Paso. 

DRIVE 3D also emphasizes a Business Creation Ecosystem with a focus on the defense manufacturing supply chain: 1) matching teams to business concepts; 2) mentoring companies from startup to small business; 3) training teams in innovation; and 4) growing the innovation ecosystem.

The program described here incorporates a holistic approach for developing proficiency in additive manufacturing, increasing military readiness and adoption of the technology, and supporting the local El Paso community.

Characterization

Microscopy

  • Optical and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) available
  • Performed by state of the art equipment for characterizing biological specimens as well as polymers, ceramics, or metal materials.

Metrology

  • 3D dimensional measurement technology with optical and touch probe sensors to validate printed parts.

Environmental Testing

Environmental testing includes:

  • Testing chambers for exposure to UV light, humidity, chemicals, and temperature fluctuations.

Mechanical Testing

Mechanical Testing included:

  • Top of the line equipment for tensile, compression, impact, flexural, and cyclical (axial + torsional) testing in controlled temperature environments.
  • Material property characterization including viscosity and hardness testing.

Post-Processing

Post-processing are the various processes available to give your part a final touch, enhancing visual appeal and/or mechanical properties. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Machining, painting, sealing, and electroplating

Research Highlights

Hybrid AM

The active integration of multiple technologies with AM, produces unique capabilities that result in new and exiting manufacturing processes. The Keck Center's Multi3D technology combines complementary processes resulting in the realization of multi-functionality. The Foundry Multi3D System, All-In-One Multi3D System, Multi-functional BAAM System, and the Compact Multi-Tool Fabricator, combine thermoplastic material extrusion, wire and foil embedding, machining, direct-write, and robotic component placement for the fabrication of unique devices valued in industries such as aerospace, biomedical, and consumer electronics.

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Large Area AM

The Cincinnati Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) System, with a print area of 140 x 65 x72 inches, allows for large-scale rapid prototyping and direct fabrication of construction and vehicle components, to name a few. The BAAM extrudes a rate of 20 lb/min with materials ranging from carbon filled ABS to polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG). UTEP's custom BAAM system will soon include a wire embedding tool that will allow for large-scale 3D printed parts with embedded filaments or wires for reinforcement of electrical interconnect.

 

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Polymer-Based AM

The use of polymers in AM enables the production of parts with applications ranging from automobile components to biomedical implants. There exists a myriad of material options, ranging from ULTEM (a high performance thermoplastic with excellent strength-to-weight ratio) to polyethylene glycol (a biocompatible and potentially biodegradable polymer). Common polymer AM processes include material extrusion and vat photopolymerization, both technologies contained in the Keck Center's broad collection of machines.

 

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Metal-Based AM

AM of metals refers to a class of AM processes where end-use parts are directly fabricated, usually layer-by-layer, from digital data. Technologies that fabricate from powder metal systems hold promise to revolutionize the way we currently fabricate complex metallic components by enabling the design and production of more efficient (stronger and lighter), less expensive components. Our research in this area has focused on development of process parameters for a array of powder materials and in situ process monitoring to understand the process in a more effective manner.

 

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Ceramic-Based AM

The use of ceramics in AM is gaining popularity for their inherent mechanical, electrical, and thermal properties. Ceramics can be used in printed circuit boards, sensors, heaters, transducers, high temperature functional materials, nuclear materials, and biomedical applications such as in the construction of dental and bone implants. At the Keck Center, ceramics printing technologies such as binder jetting, vat photopolymerization, and paste extrusion have been studied as means for printing technologies such as binder jetting, vat photopolymerization, and paste extrusion have been studied as means for printig ceramic parts using materials such as AlN, BaTiO3, PZT, Al2O3, SiC, LiNbO3, and SiO2.

 

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AM-Enabled Materials Science

By developing novel polymer matrix composites and polymer blends, we can create printable materials with tunable physical properties such as mechanical strength, hardness, flexibility, and elasticity as well as optimized electromagnetic properties such as permittivity and permeability. Materials development also allows for fabrication of components with enhanced thermal conduction or radiation shielding, as well as the creation of new biopolymer-based composites or polymers with shape memory characteristics. Similarly, for metal-based AM, nucleation agents have been selectively introduced into metal powder feedstock materials processed via powder bed fusion AM technologies to tailor microstructure. The control of the phases that develop, has also been achieved through in situ nitriding by substituting the shield gas used during laser powder bed fusion AM.

 

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Applications Of AM


3D Printed Electronics

Over the past decade, UTEP has tuned its hybrid manufacturing capabilities for the development of 3D Printed Electronics- multi-material, heterogeneous, electronic structures exhibiting non conventional 3D component placement and conductor routing. The incorporation of copper wire/foil embedding through thermal or ultrasonic methods allows for enhanced conductivity between electronic components. These efforts are of particular importance to the aerospace industry, intelligence community,and national defense agencies.

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Biomedical Printing Applications

We are capable of creating 3D anatomical models to aid surgeons and medical researchers. Individualized computer and physical models can be created from medical imaging data to simulate the anatomy of, for example, an abdominal aneurysm, a human jaw bone, or even a human brain. We also study flow characteristics in individualized cardiovascular system models, and are breaking new ground by creating bioactive tissue engineering “scaffolds” that give regenerated tissue a place to live and grow. These complex-shaped hydrogel constructs have been applied in guided angiogenesis and nerve regeneration.

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Patents

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Publications

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Research

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