How 3D Printing and Metrology Work Together

Discover how 3D printing and metrology collaborate to improve manufacturing accuracy, quality assurance, process validation, and in-process monitoring.

Victoria Russman
Victoria Russman

3D printing or additive manufacturing involves creating three-dimensional objects layer-by-layer from digital files. It allows engineers to quickly create prototypes and carry out concept tests to validate their ideas before mass-producing products. From automotive to aerospace, almost all major industries use 3D printing.  

Metrology is the scientific study of measurement. Applied or industrial metrology involves the application of measurement science to manufacturing. Metrologists develop measurement standards, methods, and systems. They also ensure the reliability and accuracy of measurement results, develop measurement instruments, and make sure that industries follow measurement standards.

The Importance of Metrology

Metrology services help clients ensure product compliance and are responsible for testing and calibrating their measurement instruments. Product developers use metrology techniques and principles to analyze data during different stages of the product development process. In automotive, aerospace, healthcare and other industries where precision is non-negotiable, metrology services can help ensure that parts are dimensionally accurate and safe to use.  

3D Printing and Metrology Complement Each Other

3D printing and metrology work together in the following ways to improve the efficiency, accuracy, and reliability of manufacturing processes.  

Quality Assurance

Metrology plays an important role in ensuring the quality of 3D-printed machine parts. 3D inspection services use laser scanners, optical inspection systems, CMMs, blue light, computed tomography, and metrology techniques to check the dimensional accuracy of 3D-printed parts.   

Metrology example on industrial computed tomography data.
Angle measurements from industrial computed tomography data capture.

Process Validation

Metrology can be used to validate the 3D printing process. Metrology principles are employed to measure layer thickness and geometry of parts, and evaluate material properties. Metrology is often used to perform process tolerance analysis and can help ensure that parts are dimensionally accurate.  

Reverse Engineering

Metrology techniques can be used to create digital models of existing parts, which can later be modified and optimized for 3D printing. Metrology and 3D printing can be used together to produce parts with complex shapes that can be difficult to design from scratch.  

In-process Monitoring

Metrology can be used to monitor the 3D printing process as it occurs. Real-time feedback enables engineers to make process adjustments promptly to prevent defects and improve the quality of parts.

Metrology data enables designers to analyze dimensional deviations and identify areas for improvement. Based on their analysis, they devise a plan to improve the performance and functionality of printed components.  

Last but not least, 3D printing can be used to create custom tools and fixtures designed to securely hold parts in place as they’re measured, ensuring accurate and reliable results. Companies leverage metrology techniques throughout the 3D printing process to optimize their workflows, reduce waste, and develop quality products faster and at less cost.  

At Nel PreTech, we understand the principles of metrology. Our professionals use different metrology techniques to verify the dimensional accuracy of 3D-printed parts. To learn more, call 708-429-4887.

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