Our Additive Manufacturing and X-ray Microscopy labs are part of our Future Technology Centre. They allow researchers, and businesses, to inspect 3D objects with high precision, and to turn 3D models into physical objects.
This facility supports our materials engineering researchers in their work, including the Materials Design and Characterisation research group, and the Advanced Polymers and Composites research group.
The research carried out here supports the strategic goals of the University, aligned with the University's Future and Emerging Technologies and Health and Wellbeing research themes. Training and consultancy opportunities for academic and industrial collaborators are also available on request.
Additive manufacturing facilities
Additive Manufacturing is the industrial application of 3D printing, turning digital models into high performance components layer by layer. Excellent mechanical properties and high precision allows functional components to be produced, not just prototyped.
We are able to 3D print 17-4PH stainless steel with our equipment. Using a precisely controlled high-power laser, metal powder is melted together to produce solid material. Able to reproduce digital models with a high level of accuracy, complex structures such as lattices can be produced.
Our facility also houses a multi-material polymer jetting printer that can be used to develop new composite structures, and prototype multi part assemblies in one process.
Additive manufacturing equipment
- 3D Systems ProX 300 – Laser powder bed fusion metal 3D-printer, capable of printing parts in high-performance 17-4PH stainless steel. Minimum resolution of 200 µm, maximum print volume 250x250x300mm
- Drying furnace – Used to prepare powder feedstock for the ProX metal fusion printer. Maximum operating temperature 300°C
- 3DXpert 3D-modelling software – Specialised software for preparing digital files for printing, able to predict how different laser parameters and build orientations will affect manufacture. Combines 3D modelling and CAD capabilities with manufacturing focussed thermal and mechanical analysis
- 3D Systems ProJet 5500X – Multi-material polymer jet printer, able to produce parts with both flexible and rigid features in one process
Additive manufacturing research
Investigating how additively manufactured materials respond to fatigue, and how we can improve the approach to modelling failure
Use of surface texturing through printing to change wear behaviour, allowing the design of improved wear resistance
Printing of accurate multi-material bone replicas, based on high resolution X-ray microscopy scans of bone tissue
X-ray microscopy facilities
Our high-resolution x-ray microscopes enable sub-micron resolution, achievable through a unique RaaD (resolution at a distance) capability. In many cases this permits non-destructive inspection and analysis of a range of materials and processes, covering both the life sciences and physical sciences.
Our 3D imaging capabilities are complemented by in-situ experimental rigs that also allow time-resolved, dynamic 4D imaging. Facilities also include a visualisation suite for post-processing and image analysis to enable detailed investigative x-ray workflows.
X-ray microscopy equipment
- Zeiss Xradia 610 Versa – our latest 3D x-ray microscope, with its 25W 160kV source, providing more flux and enabling faster scans, enables non-destructive inspection and analysis with a spatial resolution down to 500nm and a minimum voxel size of 40nm
- Zeiss Xradia 520 Versa – a custom configuration featuring an autoloader for batch scanning and a flat panel detector extension for larger samples. Capable of providing spatial resolutions down to 700nm with a minimum voxel size of 70nm
- Nikon 225 – to complement our high-resolution x-ray microscopes, the higher penetrating power of the 225kV x-ray source is suitable for non-destructive analysis and inspection of larger, more dense samples that do not require sub-micron resolution. This system comes with a choice of tungsten, molybdenum, silver, and copper targets, depending on the application
In-situ mechanical testing equipment
- DEBEN CT5000 5kN – one of our in-situ testing rigs for combined tensile and compression testing with x-ray microscopy. It has a maximum extension of 10mm, a 5kN load cell, and an accuracy of 1% (of full-scale range). Actuator speed ranges are 0.1mm/min to 1.0mm/min and it’s equipped with an environmental chamber with temperature range from -20°C to +160°C
- DEBEN CT500 500N – a smaller tensile and compression rig for combined in-situ testing and x-ray microscopy, with the same 1% accuracy (of full-scale range), extension range and actuator speeds, but with a 500N load cell
- FEMTOTOOLS FT-RS1002 Microrobotic System – a versatile and reconfigurable micromechanical testing and robotic handling system with nanometer resolution suitable for the investigation of microscopic samples in multiple directions
- High-specification workstations capable of handling large X-ray datasets
- Access to both open-source and commercial software, including Fiji/ImageJ, ORS Dragonfly, and Avizo
X-ray microscopy research
The facility actively engages in collaborative research projects to develop new x-ray technology and techniques, and custom experimental apparatus. If you’re interested and would like to discuss this further, please get in touch.
To find out more about our x-ray microscopy facilities, email the Senior Scientific Officer in X-ray Microscopy, Dr Charles Wood.