Image of Brookhaven National Laboratory
The AFRL used beamline instrumentation at Brookhaven National Laboratory to capture real-time imaging data of 3D-printed composite inks that could be used to produce aircraft structures in the future. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Hilmar Koerner)

In January 2016, researchers from AFRL started focusing on the ability to 3D-print parts for the Air Force – specifically, polymer architectures that can replace heavier and complex metal parts currently used in low-cost aircraft or on jet engines.

AFRL partnered with Brookhaven National Laboratory to further examine the parts they produce. An X-ray beam produced using Brookhaven’s 11-ID beamline instrumentation collects data at up to 9,000 images per second. The X-ray beam hits the 3D-printer nozzle, which allows them to see real-time internal structure of the polymer as it’s printed.