Relativity Space to Develop Sensors to Detect 3D Printing Flaws in Real Time with NASA Award

NASA has selected Relativity Space for that a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award that will allow the company to continue developing a suite of sensors capable of real-time detection of flaws in 3D printing.

“At this time, we do not perform automatic, real-time defect detection, but the company has developed significant elements that when integrated together demonstrate the capability for real-time in-situ flaw detection. We use sensors and cameras to collect data on multi-dimension time series; real-time processing elements to review camera and time series data; and closed-feedback loops to modify print deposition parameters,” the company said in the project summary.

Relativity Space, which is 3D printing its launch vehicle, said the suite of sensors will have a variety of uses both on Earth and in space.

“Automatic defect detection are a key enabler for 3D printing off planet and as such has wide-ranging potential applications for NASA, including for in-situ manufacturing, on-demand manufacturing from feedstock, manufacturing objects that cannot be launched from Earth due either to payload fairing volume limits or launch loads, and the ability to design missions in novel ways to reduce cost. For example, mission elements not needed for ascent from Earth—such as habitat components—could be manufactured from a printer on the surface of the Moon.” the company said.

The SBIR Phase II award is worth up to $750,000 for the 24-month project.

A summary of the proposal follows.

Relativity Space: 3D Printing the Future
Subtopic: Real Time Defect Detection, Identification and Correction
in Wire-Feed Additive Manufacturing Processes
Award: up to $750,000

Relativity Space, Inc.
Long Beach, CA

Principal Investigator: Jeffrey Campbell

Estimated Technology Readiness Level (TRL)
Begin: 3
End: 6

Duration: 24 months

Technical Abstract

Relativity is the only company dedicated to printing an entire launch vehicle. To that end, the company has created the world’s largest metal 3D printer platform, Stargate. At this time, we do not perform automatic, real-time defect detection, but the company has developed significant elements that when integrated together demonstrate the capability for real-time in-situ flaw detection. We use sensors and cameras to collect data on multi-dimension time series; real-time processing elements to review camera and time series data; and closed-feedback loops to modify print deposition parameters.

As part of our Phase II effort over the course of 24 months, we propose to mature our entire suite of sensors to a TRL of 6. To that end, we propose to:

  • Complete the integration of volumetric-flaw detection sensors into our production-class printers.
  • Train our flaw-detection algorithms to work with our detection sensors.
  • Conduct trade studies of our algorithms.
  • Integrate and validate our algorithms with our production printers, continuing to train them to detect and classify the types of flaws that would cause us to stop a print.

The above work would be in line with our standing goal of using machine learning to automatically respond to a defect and remove/replace it.

Potential NASA Applications

Automatic defect detection are a key enabler for 3D printing off planet and as such has wide-ranging potential applications for NASA, including for in-situ manufacturing, on-demand manufacturing from feedstock, manufacturing objects that cannot be launched from Earth due either to payload fairing volume limits or launch loads, and the ability to design missions in novel ways to reduce cost. For example, mission elements not needed for ascent from Earth—such as habitat components—could be manufactured from a printer on the surface of the Moon.

Potential Non-NASA Applications

Potential non-NASA applications include those in large, low-volume structures manufacturing, such as makers of industrial pipe, automotive equipment, real-time imaging, and non-destructive testing across the construction, oil, and gas industries.