X-ray computed tomography evaluations of additive manufactured multi-material composites

Marco Curto, Alex Kao, William Malcolm Keeble, Gianluca Tozzi, Asa Barber

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Additive Manufacturing (AM) often produces complex engineered structures by precisely distributing materials in a layer-by-layer fashion. Multi-material AM is a particularly flexible technique able to combine a range of hard and soft materials to produce designed composites. Critically, the design of AM multi-material structures requires the development of precise three- dimensional (3D) computed aided design (CAD) files. While such digital design is heavily used, techniques able to validate the physically manufactured composite against the digital design from which it is generated are lacking for AM, especially as any evaluations must be able to distinguish material variation across the 3D space. Nowadays, there is a growing interest in volumetric tools that can provide topological information hidden by the surface of shaped materials. So far, technologies such as Optical microscopy (OM), Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), and Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM) have paved the way into the metrology field to measure the external geometry of physical objects. Currently, alongside conventional metrology tools, X-ray computed tomography (XCT) is emerging to measure the sub-surface of the objects but maintaining the integrity of the probed samples. Thereby, the volumetric nature of the XCT investigations and its associated imaging techniques, ensure 3D quantitative measurements comparable to the output data from 2D metrology tools, but above all, supply the missing sub-surface description for an exhaustive metrology study. The reward associated with XCT applied to multi-material AM is a map reflecting the fabricated distribution of materials following CAD, with the benefits of better understanding the mechanical interplay within phases, hence, describing the hidden processes as well as the changes in phases due to a range of mechanical or chemical phenomena. In this study, a non-destructive approach using X- ray computed tomography (XCT) is used to fully evaluate the 3D distribution of multi-materials from an AM process. Specifically, two diverse hard and soft materials are alternatively produced in the form of a fibre embedded in a matrix via ink-jet printing. XCT coupled with imaging evaluation were able to distinguish between the differing materials and, importantly, to demonstrate a reduction in the expected fabricated volumes when compared to the respective CAD designs.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Microscopy
Early online date4 Jun 2021
Publication statusEarly online - 4 Jun 2021


  • X-ray computed tomography
  • additive manufacturing
  • 3D printing
  • composites
  • multi-lateral


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