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NquiringMinds and J4IC Join Forces on IAM-3DPO Project

NquiringMinds and J4IC join forces on IAM-3DPO project

October 2021 marked the start of the novel IAM-3DPO project, with deep tech UK company and TWI Innovation Network Member NquiringMinds and the Joining 4.0 Innovation Centre, a strategic alliance between Lancaster University and TWI, kicking off the all-important research and development phase together with their fellow consortium partners.

NquiringMinds, established in 2010, provides intelligent, trusted systems that combine deep artificial intelligence (AI) powered analytics with strong, cyber secure fundamentals for application in smart cities, healthcare, industrial, agricultural, fintech, defence and other areas. Its TDX (trusted data exchange) products provide tools to share, data analyse and deploy in the real world, where relations between organisations, systems and people are constantly changing.  The Joining 4.0 Innovation Centre (J4IC) was formed in 2017 to focus on the digitalisation of joining and associated manufacturing technologies in the context of industry 4.0.  J4IC integrates Lancaster University’s research strengths in engineering, data science and computing with TWI’s world-leading knowhow in joining technologies, with the aim of creating and embedding transformative manufacturing capabilities for industry.

Laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) is a type of additive manufacturing (AM) that uses a laser to melt metal powder into a solid object. LPBF is a promising technology for manufacturing complex metal parts, but it can also be susceptible to defects such as porosity, cracking and residual stresses, caused by various factors including laser power, scan speed and powder bed temperature. Therefore it is important to address these challenges, and having control over the LPBF process parameters, and monitoring the process in real-time, is intrinsic to this. Consequently, a solution is needed to mitigate the risks associated with parts build failure, and ensure the quality and consistency of additively manufactured components.


Using a multi-disciplinary approach, the aim of IAM-3DPO: Intelligent advanced additive manufacturing–enabling dynamic process efficiency, is to create a novel, integrated, advanced, laser-based system capable of achieving both zero distortion and defects during the 2D build process, when using LPBF to produce metal additively manufactured components.


Having come up with the idea for the IAM-3DPO concept, in order to progress it further into a viable project, the J4IC team put their heads together with TWI’s Technology Innovation Management (TIM) team, so that they could assist them with identifying a suitable grant funding stream (also known as a ‘call’) and putting together a consortium of partners with the necessary, complementary skills and experience to progress the technology idea into a full-blown proposal for submission to the call competition.

As well as providing this type of input to TWI’s Innovation Centres and Technical Sections when they are seeking to advance a new collaborative project, the TIM team also works with TWI Innovation Network (TWIIN) SME Members to help them accelerate their business and technology development, through identifying suitable collaborative projects they have the potential to join the consortia of.  When looking at the range of technologies involved in IAM-3DPO and which companies could best support J4IC on the funding bid, they identified NquiringMinds as being an ideal fit for the data analytics and machine learning expertise required on the project. In addition, NquiringMinds had already been involved in previous collaborative projects with other partners so the TIM team were confident that the company would be able to hit the ground running.

The TIM team also recruited the other consortium members for the project, namely ThinkLaser, Materialise and TRUMPF Laser UK, supported all partners with budget preparation, and finally submitted their collective proposal to the Innovate UK’s EUREKA R&D: SMART Advanced Manufacturing grant competition via the EUREKA and Innovation Funding Service (IFS) portal.

Industry Relevance

There is increasing demand for metal AM in the AM market, but its application is being impeded by a number of technical challenges that occur when producing parts through LPBF. Defects can be caused by residual stress, structural distortion, cracking (solidification and hot), lack of fusion, porosity or thermal dissipation. In addition, multiple processing steps are required to obtain the final product, the cost of materials is high affecting adoption, component size is limited, and metal components require the use of multi-materials with varied physical and chemical properties.

Joining 4.0 Innovation Centre
Joining 4.0 Innovation Centre


The new IAM-3DPO, laser-based integrated system will incorporate monitoring capability and cloud-based, AI-enabled, closed-loop process optimisation technology, utilising predictive thermal simulations and adaptable process parameters to avoid build defects and allow first-time-right manufacturability. It will leverage partner Materialise’ Materialise Control Platform (MCP) technology to enable total beam path control, linked to partner TRUMPF Laser UK’s unique, beam shape control technology for single mode beams, to optimise the factors associated with build quality (see Figure 1 below).

The specific ‘work packages’ for the project are as follows:

  • Development of an optical and thermal monitoring system for LPBF
  • Integration of diagnostic data acquisition systems for the metal AM process
  • Creation of data interpretation algorithms and AI analytical models
  • Implementation of the data driven approach by modularising experimentally acquired AM data
  • Deployment of cloud based data sharing and AI analytics in AM processes

Together, the system (see Figure 2 below) will enable dynamic optimisation of advanced process parameters and scan strategies, and could lead to solutions for cost effectively upgrading ageing PBF equipment.

The IAM-3DPO project runs from February 2022 to March 2024.

Benefits and Conclusion

When fully realised, the IAM-3DPO system will result in cost reductions, higher material utilisation, improved quality assurance, and reduced design and processing cycle times in the AM process chain. In turn this will provide significant economic benefits to users, suppliers, the broader industrial market and the wider economy, by significantly improving the efficiency and productivity of metal AM.

The multidisciplinary, cutting-edge science and technology development in IAM-3DPO will overcome the present technical boundaries in metal AM and provide a solution to help accelerate the application of PBF-LB in the production of metal additively manufactured components.

The AM environment is constantly changing, and manufacturers need to keep pace with it, therefore, the system being developed by the project partners will be of particular interest to aerospace, automotive and medical AM supply chains. On project completion, IAM-3DPO will have achieved new techniques, an improved fundamental understanding of the mechanisms of process-induced defect build-up in metals AM processes, and methodologies to control defects. Longer term, these will lead to improved metal AM machine design and design-for-AM guidelines.

IAM-3DPO has received funding from Innovate UK via a EUREKA R&D:SMART Advanced Manufacturing grant, reference 76940.

Figure 1. TRUMPF Laser UK’s beam mode technology dynamically adjusts between the lowest single order mode output (LP01 – left) and a single higher order mode output (LP41 – right).
Figure 1. TRUMPF Laser UK’s beam mode technology dynamically adjusts between the lowest single order mode output (LP01 – left) and a single higher order mode output (LP41 – right).
Figure 2. Early stage diagram of the LPBF system showing IAM-3DPO partner contributions.
Figure 2. Early stage diagram of the LPBF system showing IAM-3DPO partner contributions.

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