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Coaxial color channel focus evaluation to estimate standoff height in directed energy deposition additive manufacturing

Publication Type
Journal Name
Progress in Additive Manufacturing
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1 to 13

Directed energy deposition (DED) is an additive manufacturing process that is being rapidly adopted by industry and is well suited for the fabrication of complex components in a variety of metal alloys. In laser cladding systems such as DED, powder is blown in a stream to a metal substrate coincident with a laser necessary to deposit molten metal with 3D spatial control. The focus of both the laser and the powder stream are crucial, and best deposition occurs at a predetermined standoff height between the build surface and the print head. Generally, no monitoring of this distance is implemented in commercial DED systems. Due to potential over or under building, the standoff height often changes over time but tends to self-correct. However, inexpensive and minimally intrusive methods to identify optimal standoff are required to provide real-time control to maintain the optimal distance. The present work explores the quantification of the focus of the three-color channels of a coaxial camera to determine the standoff height. An experiment was performed in which a 254 mm wall is built and the standoff height, initially 5.0 mm below the optimal position, was then intentionally increased every 25.4 mm of wall length by an amount of 1.0 mm to a final position 7.0 mm above optimal. Computer vision is demonstrated to monitor the amount of focus in each color band and estimate standoff distance. A response can be calculated in under 40 ms using simple hardware and can work in most laser-based DED systems.