Haifeng Zhang stands in lab facing cameraHaifeng Zhang, a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is a co-principal investigator in a new $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

He, along with researchers at Penn State University, will develop and fabricate an in-situ sensor that will be used to assess the quality of the part and material properties of a microstructure during the additive manufacturing process.

“We’re going to use ultrasonic technology to monitor the material microstructure which is an indicator of the par quality,” said Zhang. “By detecting a possible defect earlier in the process, we could revise the manufacturing parameters sooner, saving time and money.”

The new sensor will also make it possible to improve performance, as well.

“Additive manufacturing has potential to revolutionize manufacturing operations and significantly disrupt the conventional handling of new and replacement parts in all industries, including nuclear, which is what much of my research is in,” he said.

Additive manufacturing allows for increased design flexibility and custom tailoring of microstructures in the manufacturing process. UNT recently received a $10 million boost from the 86th Texas Legislature to its Center for Agile and Adaptive Additive Manufacturing, further establishing the university as a leading expert in the field.

The grant is for three years, and has implications in fundamental additive manufacturing research and in applications for the aerospace, automotive, and artificial intelligence industries.