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Quality Assurance

The need for real-time QA in AM

By Alex Benham

Incredible growth has happened in the AM industry, even just in the last ten years with higher print speeds, ease of use, diversified material use, cloud connectivity, and user-friendly software. 

However, many metal additive manufacturing machines today still leave operators with little to no insight into the actual manufacturing process or in-process feedback about part quality.

Thus companies using direct metal 3D printing struggle with quality and reliability, especially for complex parts.


Here are just a few quality and reliability challenges that 3D metal additive manufacturing faces:

  • Machines and processes are inherently variable, even within a single machine. If a company has a number of machines, especially from different manufacturers or that are different ages, there will be wide variation in manufacturing and production consistency. 


  • The build process itself has many adjustable inputs that directly affect the ability to create a part and its final quality. It can be difficult to trace which input is responsible for issues after the fact.


  • While the industry has few design rules, monitoring methods or standards for finished products, builds for certain industries could cause catastrophic failure if built improperly.


  • Given all of these variables, ensuring consistent, repeatable quality for final production parts can be extremely difficult.

Up to now, most companies depended on post-manufacturing QA methods  – destructive testing and CT scanning. Unfortunately, these expensive, time-consuming, and wasteful methods rely on what has already happened, and do not always yield accurate results.

In highly demanding production industries where the risk can be considerable – aerospace, defense, automobile, oil and gas and others – companies must be certain that their parts can withstand many usage cycles and physically rigorous environments. Waiting until after the manufacturing process to test the parts is a waste of time and money, especially considering that they can only guess at what part of the process went wrong.

That’s where Sigma Additive Solutions comes in. With the idea that in-process monitoring of the melt pool should be the industry standard, we have developed technology to give real-time feedback and quality control so engineers can collect and use in-process data to monitor and certify their AM material and process of choice.

Sigma Additive Solution’s IPQA PrintRite3D® suite of software works with existing machines to monitor the quality and reliability of additive manufactured parts by ensuring consistent quality control during the manufacturing process. This allows companies to build, qualify and certify parts more quickly and at lower cost.


Sigma’s proprietary software addresses the inherent challenges of in-process quality assurance:

  • Eliminates the traditional trial and error approach to quality assurance 
  • Builds quality into the part by monitoring in real time so manufacturers don’t discover discover defects after the fact
  • Reduces the cost associated with destructive testing
  • Avoids invalidating machine warranties by working with existing hardware
  • Simplifies data to be understandable to a wider audience
  • Compiles data into a single, easy-to-use interface
  • Creates data fusion

With three modules that address machine health, process health, and part health, the PrintRite 3D suite helps companies answer three simple, yet essential questions:

Is my machine okay? →

Is my process okay? →

Is my part okay?

To learn more about how Sigma’s PrintRite 3D suite of software could help your AM business, contact us today.

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