Northwestern University Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science

Advanced Manufacturing Processes Laboratory

DED – Direct Energy Deposition


Manufacturing enables innovation—so much so that progress often pauses for manufacturing to catch up. For decades, such has been the status quo: design first and build it later; at least, until the advent of additive manufacturing. This technology has pushed the frontier of manufacturability so rapidly that design has yet to maximize its full potential.

Additive manufacturing breaks three fundamental manufacturing tradeoffs: capital versus scale, capital versus scope, and capital verses complexity. It also significantly reduces material waste by using only the material necessary.

Widespread acceptance of additive manufacturing will increase supply chain efficiency, reduce time to market, move from mass production to mass customization, and sustain the environment. This will spur a technology renaissance by bridging manufacturing of all scales and broadening participation by disseminating accessibility to cutting-edge manufacturing processes, and empowering the return of manufacturing to the United States, resulting in an influx of STEM jobs and increased national economic competitiveness.


One additive manufacturing technology with enormous potential is laser deposition.

Unlike its powder-bed counterpart, laser deposition creates a 3D object by depositing powder directly into a small molten pool generated by a laser beam, to create solid material layer-by-layer. This technology is uniquely transformative in its ability to create multi-material, functionally graded components, repair or modify existing components, and add wear-resistant coatings.


Many challenges still persist before this technology can reach its full potential. The major deficiencies are a lack of process repeatability, dimensional integrity, and material quality.

For this project, our lab is collaborating with three other groups at Northwestern, along with Northern Illinois University and Quad City Manufacturing Laboratory in order to evaluate several different aspects of this process, from powder design, the solidification process, in-situ sensing, and finite element modeling, to characterization of as-built properties.

All of the above aspects are being integrated and validated by a new lab-scale DED setup with well-instrumented sensing for temperature, position and in-situ porosity detection. If successful, this will enable quick qualification of components, increase the process autonomy, truly integrate design and manufacturing, and ultimately release this technology from the hands of a few to the hands of many.