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Creative licensing boosts adoption of ORNL’s AI-driven quality assessment software for 3D printing

Award: Excellence in Technology Transfer

Year: 2022

Award Type: National

Laboratory:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)

The technology transfer story of Peregrine software at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) showcases innovation on two levels: the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to improve quality assessment for 3D-printed parts, and a licensing strategy designed to encourage broad adoption of the software by industry.

Peregrine emerged from a need to more efficiently analyze the quality of parts produced at ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF), a busy “playground” facility where potential licensees can access more than 100 additive manufacturing (AM, also called 3D printing) machines that feature different ORNL technologies.

Unlike traditional manufacturing that starts with an amount of certified material that is shaped into a final product, AM continuously adds new “building blocks” of material to create a final design. This process generates a vast number of units of material, each with different properties that must be reviewed for potential defects. For this reason, using current material qualification processes for products made via AM is costly and time-consuming.

Named for the world’s fastest animal, the peregrine falcon, ORNL’s Peregrine software addresses this challenge by using AI to assess the quality of AM parts in real time, with no need to delay the manufacturing process for expensive post-build analysis.

Peregrine's inventors and the ORNL tech transfer team have collaborated to rapidly negotiate short-form CRADAs, allowing partners to begin using the technology at a low cost and provide feedback to inform further improvements.

Seeing Peregrine’s ability to efficiently quality-check parts produced at the MDF and easily share those data with industry, ORNL’s technical team and technology transfer office quickly recognized the potential for commercialization across a wide range of markets.

ORNL’s ultimate aim is to make Peregrine an industry standard. The software’s compatibility with a range of printers, cameras and materials will help achieve this goal, as will the lab’s tech transfer approach. The technology has been offered broadly to the advanced manufacturing and AM community via a unique, low-cost non-exclusive licensing campaign, encouraging broad adoption by industry.

Peregrine’s inventors and the ORNL tech transfer team have collaborated to rapidly negotiate short-form Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs), allowing a wide variety of partners to begin using Peregrine at a low cost and provide ORNL with feedback that will inform further improvements. The lab is also pursuing both copyright and patent protection for the technology.

The short-form CRADAs are designed for easy conversion to commercial licenses. Since the technology was disclosed in 2019, ORNL has secured five non-exclusive research licenses from organizations employing Peregrine for different applications. These companies are:

  • Blue Origin, a commercial aerospace manufacturer and a suborbital spaceflight services company.
  • Cummins, which designs, manufactures, and distributes engines, filtration, and power generation products.
  • GE Additive, the dedicated AM division of General Electric.
  • Raytheon Technologies, an aerospace and defense company that provides advanced systems and services.
  • Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation, a nuclear power technology company and a global leader in the deployment of microreactors.

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