This article highlights work at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility to develop closed-loop, feedback control for laser-wire based Directed Energy Deposition, a form of metal Big Area Additive Manufacturing (m-BAAM), a process being developed in partnership with GKN Aerospace specifically for the production of Ti-6Al-4V pre-forms for aerospace components. A large-scale structural demonstrator component is presented as a case-study in which not just control, but the entire 3D printing workflow for m-BAAM is discussed in detail, including design principles for large-format metal AM, toolpath generation, parameter development, process control, and system operation, as well as post-print net-shape geometric analysis and finish machining. In terms of control, a multi-sensor approach has been utilized to measure both layer height and melt pool size, and multiple modes of closed-loop control have been developed to manipulate process parameters (laser power, print speed, deposition rate) to control these variables. Layer height control and melt pool size control have yielded excellent local (intralayer) and global (component-level) geometry control, and the impact of melt pool size control in particular on thermal gradients and material properties is the subject of continuing research. Further, these modes of control have allowed the process to advance to higher deposition rates (exceeding 7.5 lb/hr), larger parts (1-meter scale), shorter build times, and higher overall efficiency. The control modes are examined individually, highlighting their development, demonstration, and lessons learned, and it is shown how they operate concurrently to enable the printing of a large-scale, near net shape Ti-6Al-4V component.

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