Penn State releases roadmap for advancement of additive manufacturing materials

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State researchers have released a roadmap that is designed to offer a strategy for building the fundamental knowledge necessary to accelerate the design and application of additive manufacturing (AM) materials over the next 10 years.

Funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, researchers from the Applied Research Lab (ARL), the Penn State Center for Innovative Materials Processing through Direct Digital Deposition (CIMP-3D), the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, the Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, and the School of Engineering at Penn State Behrend worked with Nexight Group to prepare the “Strategic Roadmap for the Next Generation of Additive Manufacturing Materials.”

“We have published this document in order to inform the next generation of makers about the materials and applications that lend themselves well to 3D printing so they can take advantage of the wide range of capabilities that this technology can offer to industry,” said Tim Simpson, one of the co-principal investigators (PIs) on the roadmapping project and co-director of CIMP-3D and professor of mechanical engineering and industrial engineering.

Simpson’s research partners are: Greg Dillon, associate director for research and technology transfer and associate professor of engineering at Penn State Behrend; Richard Martukanitz, senior research associate with ARL and director of CIMP-3D; Gary Messing, distinguished professor of ceramic science and engineering and co-director of CIMP-3D; and Todd Palmer, associate professor of materials science and engineering and senior research associate with the ARL, who is the PI on the roadmapping project. 

“This roadmapping effort involved more than 120 participants from industry, government and academia, who graciously contributed their time and effort to help us define a pathway for future materials development,” said Palmer. Today, we rely on materials developed decades ago for much different processing routes; for example, all of the metal alloys that we are using were developed to be processed using casting and forging processes. As additive manufacturing becomes more widely used, new materials systems optimized for the radically different processing conditions prevalent in this process will become critical. 

“New materials will represent one of the next great innovations in this field, and we believe that this roadmap provides researchers a pathway for the next generation of materials and innovations that will drive additive manufacturing for the next decade or two. Our work on this roadmap is only strengthening Penn State’s leadership position in additive manufacturing.”

It has been more than 30 years since AM processes were initially commercialized as an efficient and resourceful rapid prototyping method, and their popularity has soared in recent years with revenues reaching $4.1 billion in 2014. However, new innovations are required in order to bolster the technology into new application areas.

According to the researchers, today’s AM community relies on a limited selection of conventional feedstock material choices for producing parts, functional prototypes, casting patterns and repair solutions. Most of the materials are costly and are not readily available. There is also a limited understating and inadequate compatibility with current AM processing technologies.

This roadmap strives to show that introducing new materials to the AM industry will drive rapid innovation and shape the future competitiveness of the United States in advanced manufacturing.

“The AM process currently allows for development of unique microstructures that can lead to improved component performance,” explained Simpson. “However, in order to fulfill its promise to ‘revolutionize manufacturing,’ the AM industry must focus on the development of new materials that are created with AM processes in mind. AM allows us to make nearly anything we want, but we must be able to provide advanced material properties that are capable of meeting next-generation design requirements and product applications.”

The roadmap organizes research and activities into five strategic thrusts: enabling integrated design methodologies for materials, processes and parts; developing AM process-structure-property relationships; establishing part and feedstock testing protocols; building AM process analytics capabilities; and exploring next-generation AM materials and processes.

The research and development activities that are identified within the roadmap are focused on accelerating the design of new AM materials and encourage their widespread use by AM users during the next 10 years.

“One of the major strengths of the roadmapping activity is that it covers all the bases of AM systems,” said Dillon. “Penn State Behrend has had a traditional strength in plastics and the ties to local and regional industry in that sector were leveraged to ensure that relevant priorities were incorporated. Our established ‘customer base’ was very excited to have input into the research investment planning process, so that matters pertaining to mold design and specialty material development were considered; therefore, the impact in the plastics industry could be very far reaching.”   

The researchers are hoping that the roadmap generates enough interest from academia, research institutions, government labs and industry partners so that they can launch the Consortium for Additive Manufacturing Materials (CAMM).

The goal of CAMM is to enable materials producers, research institutions, AM equipment suppliers, part manufacturers and end users to collectively focus on the fundamental research and development of new AM materials and processes.

“Everyone will benefit from research into new materials for AM, but no one wants to foot the bill by themselves,” said Simpson. “The goal of CAMM is to co-fund research and development that will benefit everyone involved.” 

The researchers have also been coordinating their roadmapping efforts with America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, which helps transition research and development in AM into the marketplace. 

“We were intentional in aligning the strategic research thrusts in our roadmap with the technology roadmaps at America Makes,” explained Simpson. “By connecting our roadmap with theirs, we can provide a clear pathway from basic and fundamental research in new materials for AM, to advanced technology development, and ultimately to new applications and commercialization.”

For more information, or to receive a copy of the roadmap document, contact Simpson at or 814-863-7136.

Last Updated March 15, 2016