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NSERC Strategic Network for Holistic Innovation in Additive Manufacturing (HI-AM)


Additive manufacturing (AM), also known as three-dimensional (3D) printing, is a combination of technologies fabricating complex structures in a layer-by-layer fashion. AM provides advantages such as near-infinite design freedom, rapid design-to-market cycle, fast part repairing, and clean manufacturing.

AM is a key element in the new trend to the digitization of advanced manufacturing, known as Industry 4.0. In this transition process, the greatest impacts will come through the AM of metal parts. Despite all the significant advancement of this technology, especially in the last decade, some technical challenges and shortcomings still need to be addressed for the complete realization of AM, including:

  • Lack of any intelligence in the current AM systems, featuring very primitive Human Machine Interfaces (HMI)'s which require significant inputs from machine users.
  • Limited databases and process maps for materials linked to designs and process parameters that lead to desired dimensional tolerance, pore and residual stress free with improved mechanical and/or functional properties for service.
  • The higher cost of additively manufactured parts compared to the conventionally-made parts.
  • Productivity issues such as slow build rates, limited powder feedstock, restrictive powder quality (e.g. sphericity, flowability, oxygen content, size distribution), and small build volumes.

HI-AM research program will address these challenges to effectively make AM ready for Industry 4.0, while delivering AM to mainstream manufacturing.

Network Structure

The University of Waterloo hosts the NSERC HI-AM Network, initially bringing together nineteen leading experts from seven universities across Canada, fourteen private-sector partners, four government agencies, and five international organizations. These researchers and their teams share ideas, innovations, and access to the necessary advanced research infrastructure and devices essential for holistic AM experiments.
HI-AM’s industry partners demonstrate the broad impact potential of AM technology and the need for a collaborative approach. These partners include natural resource and energy firms, tooling and part repair specialists, and software developers, as well as major aerospace, automotive, energy and biomedical device manufacturers. These research-driven partnerships ensure the Network results are directly applicable to advanced manufacturing in Canada and globally, so innovations can be rapidly transferred to, and implemented by industry. International collaboration extends to leading centers in the U.S., U.K., Singapore, Germany, and Taiwan.

Research Objectives and Outcomes

The overall goal of the NSERC HI-AM Network is to provide realistic, transferable solutions for the foremost challenges preventing industry from converting their conventional manufacturing methods into metal AM processes. Attaining this goal through HI-AM’s research activities will secure Canadian leadership in the AM sector, train the highly qualified personnel in this area, and develop, optimize, and implement new feedstock materials, AM process models and simulations, monitoring sensors and closed-loop control systems, and novel AM processes/products in partnership with Canadian industries and government agencies.

HI-AM researchers and their partners are addressing these issues in fourteen projects under four themes:

  • Theme 1 – Material Development Tailored with Optimum Process Parameters: will create, test and standardize feedstock metal and metal alloys to broaden the scope of metal parts that can be easily and cost effectively adapted to metal AM processes. (Three main Projects, ten Subprojects, training 4 Co-op, 6 MASc, 15 PhD, 4 PDF);
  • Theme 2 – Advanced Process Modeling and Coupled Component/Process Design: will develop novel, robust, and efficient numerical models that will become the new tools for simulating different aspects of the Laser- and electron-beam-based powder-bed and powder-fed AM processes, along with melt-feedstock interactions and its effects on the finished parts. (Three main Projects with ten Subprojects, training 2 Co-op, 4 MASc, 6 PhD, 2 PDF);
  • Theme 3 – In-Line Monitoring/Metrology and Intelligent Process Control Strategies: will develop novel in- and off-line quality assurance protocols to establish the relationship between in-process feedback data and post-process part characterization. Machine learning algorithms, along with sophisticated monitoring and metrology devices, will effectively monitor defects and disturbances in real-time allowing for adjustments in process parameters through advanced controllers. The end result will push AM technology toward “Certify-as-you-build” platforms.  (Four Projects with ten Subprojects, training 4 Co-op, 4 MASc, 8 PhD); and
  • Theme 4 – Innovative AM Processes and AM-made Parts: will use the fundamental knowledge generated in Themes 1 through 3 to accelerate the development of innovative metal AM process parameters and finished-part performance roadmaps that can be certified to ensure the quality and repeatability of AM built parts. (Four Projects with nine Subprojects, training 6 Co-op, 1 MASc, 9 PhD, 2 PDF).


Farzad Liravi
NSERC Network Manager

Vladimir Paserin
NSERC Network Deputy Manager and the linked CFI Network Manager

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