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Pinnacle X-Ray Solutions calls it the PSX Macro CT.

Bart Prorok, professor of materials engineering, calls it the game-changer.

Auburn University's Center for Additive Manufacturing acquired the $1.5 million X-ray CT, through a 2016 grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It's powerful, and it's large — large enough to not only scan 3-D printed components, but 3-D printers themselves... while in operation.

"In terms of this machine's particular capabilities, we are probably very unique in the world," Prorok said. "There are other units that have two x-ray guns inside, but they don’t handle the range of X-ray energies that we can handle."

The PSX Macro CT's customized digital radiology provides Auburn researchers unprecedented capability to monitor the quality of additively manufactured components not just after, but actually during fabrication.

"While we’re building a component with additive, it’s difficult to monitor what’s happening," Prorok said. "This unit will scan, rotate one degree and then rescan through all 360 degrees of rotation. We can then use an algorithm to crunch all that data into a three-dimensional image all internal and external features of the component. For additive manufacturing, that's important because we can identify defects made during the fabrication process and we can confirm internal dimensions and structures and quality of what we built without destroying it."

Bart Prorok NIST Machine

The acquisition aims to help Auburn University retain its status as the nation's additive manufacturing capital, and already has industry leaders looking to streamline their AM operations once again knocking at the door.

"Through this machine, NIST has helped us add yet another invaluable component to what we feel is one of the premier additive manufacturing programs in the world," said Steve Taylor, associate dean for research in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.

The college has partnered with NIST, NASA, the U.S. Army, ASTM International and leaders throughout the aerospace and aviation industries to progress the development of industry standards and processes to bring additive manufacturing of mission-critical parts into commercial use. In March, the university landed a $5.2 million contract from NASA to help facilitate the space administration’s Rapid Analysis and Manufacturing Propulsion Technology project, or RAMPT, which will develop light-weight, large-scale 3-D printing techniques for manufacturing regeneratively-cooled thrust chamber assemblies for the liquid rocket engines necessary to return Americans to the moon.

"We already have a line of companies, as well as researchers here on campus, and faculty and students ready to use these capabilities in their work," Prorok said.