Southern Research announced today that Robert Amaro, a mechanical engineer with expertise in metallurgy and solid modeling, will spearhead an expansion of the organization’s activities in additive manufacturing, a technology revolutionizing how complex aerospace parts and other industrial components are made.
Amaro, Ph.D., joins Birmingham-based Southern Research from The University of Alabama, where he conducted federally funded research on how metals behave in environments that contribute to structural problems such as fatigue, fracture and large-scale deformation.
In his new role as manager of Advanced Materials Technologies, Amaro will help companies in aerospace, energy and other industries better understand the physical properties and performance capabilities of parts produced using additive technologies.
Jim Tucker, director of Materials Research for Southern Research’s Engineering division, said expanding the advanced materials group’s expertise in additive manufacturing will complement its longstanding focus on composites.
For decades, Southern Research has been considered a world leader in the high-temperature evaluation of composite materials used in heat shields and other components in NASA spacecraft and ballistic missiles.
“Just as composites did, additive manufacturing is changing the whole concept of how high-performance parts are designed and manufactured,” Tucker said. “Southern Research intends to stay at the center of materials testing for a range for industries, and Robert will help position us for the next-generation of advanced materials.”
Additive manufacturing – sometimes called 3-D printing – involves techniques that create three-dimensional objects by depositing one superfine layer of material over another. The process is controlled by computer-aided design (CAD) software and can involve laser or electron beams.
Manufacturers are embracing additive technologies because they can rapidly produce intricate parts that are lighter and stronger than ones fabricated using conventional means such as machining.
Because the techniques are so new, however, there can be questions about the structural integrity of components built with additive technologies that require extensive post-build testing.
Amaro said his primary focus will be on coupling Southern Research’s expertise in non-destructive evaluation with process parameter optimization techniques to create in-situ additive manufacturing build process parameter optimization routines. The data collected as part of the closed-loop AM build control routine will then be used to create a digital twin of the AM build.
Ultimately, the AM build data collected for process parameter feedback, coupled with the AM component digital twin, will aid companies and organizations using additive technologies to ensure consistent component builds and high-precision industrial production while simultaneously minimizing and quantifying build defects.
“Basically, we will offer a component build-to-solid model infrastructure that closes the gap between what it is that is being built through additive manufacturing and what is being put into service,” Amaro said. “If we can decrease the amount of time from part inception to the insertion of that part into service, then we have been successful.”
As with composites, the Southern Research team will be able to consult with both manufacturers using additive techniques and end-users of AM-produced parts on the structural integrity and performance characteristics of materials.
Amaro has served as principal investigator for research projects supporting NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST.
His research for NASA focused on modeling friction stir welding processes to achieve optimal welds, while he examined hydrogen-assisted fatigue and failure in pipeline steels and pressure vessels for NIST.
Before arriving in The University of Alabama, Amaro worked in the Colorado School of Mines’ Mechanical Engineering Department and in the Materials Reliability of NIST’s Structural Materials Group. He is the former co-owner of design-build engineering firm and managed projects to construct themed attractions in Tokyo and Berlin.
Amaro holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he also earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the field.