A critical factor in the implementation of direct energy deposition is the ability to maintain the standoff distance between the nozzle and the build surface, as this influences powder capture efficiency and overall part quality. Due to process-related variations, layer height may vary, causing unintended variation in standoff distance and poor build quality. While prior work has utilized contact probing to qualify standoff distance during processing, in situ methods for qualification of standoff distance are of major interest. The present work seeks to understand efficacy of image-based methods for classifying standoff distance variation in real-time using support vector machines (SVMs). It was hypothesized that the size of the melt pool and the amount of spatter will have significant correlations with deviations in the standoff distance; thus, SVMs were used on a dataset that is comprised of morphological features of melt pool size and image entropy. The SVM model was used to classify melt pool images into categories according to standoff distance variation from nominal. K-folds cross validation was used to find the optimal hyperparameters for the SVM model. To understand the impact of the selected features on the classification performance and inference speed, multiple models were trained with differing numbers of included features. Results for classification score, inference time, and image preprocessing/feature extraction from these data are reported. The present results show that the SVM model was able to predict the standoff distance classification with an accuracy of 97 percent and a speed of 0.122 s per image, making it a viable solution for real-time control of standoff distance.

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