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Process Diagnostics and Control

Advanced Materials Laboratory

Sandia designs and fabricates sophisticated process controllers for challenging applications. Shown above is a gas-control cabinet for a thermal-spray production station that dynamically adjusts gas flows to hold particle temperatures and velocities constant.

Sandia National Laboratories' mission frequently involves designing and fabricating complex components that must be manufactured to exacting standards. Advanced diagnostics and innovative process-control methodologies play a key role helping Sandia scientists and engineers meet the stringent demands placed on the parts we produce. Sandia has developed strong process diagnostics and control capabilities for a wide variety of metallurgical processes including welding, brazing, casting, and thermal spraying. By linking the data acquired from sensors with process models and real-time, closed-loop control of process outputs, major improvements in fabrication quality have been obtained.


Sandia's approach to modern process control is embodied in the Process-Based Quality concept-a manufacturing philosophy in which products are accepted because of defect elimination through process monitoring and understanding, rather than defect detection through post-process inspection and testing. Introducing Process-Based Quality to the manufacturing floor requires a thorough understanding of the factors that affect product quality and the means to dynamically monitor and adjust processing parameters on a real-time basis in an industrial setting.


Advanced Materials Laboratory

Example of a process map constructed to simultaneously optimize the temperature and velocity of thermally sprayed copper.

A key component of this manufacturing approach is using diagnostic sensors to monitor critical process outputs. Sophisticated process-control software then adjusts process inputs to keep these process outputs constant. Examples of some of the diagnostic tools and software models that Sandia has employed in the areas of thermal spray processing, melt processing of specialty metals, and welding are given below.


Diagnostic tools used at Sandia for process characterization and control:


Process Modeling & Control Accurate modeling of metallurgical processes is essential if the goals of Process-Based Quality are to be met. At Sandia, these models typically combine theoretical computations with experimentally derived process performance maps. Up-front qualification of a process using modeling and statistically designed experimentation not only produces a more stable and reliable process, it also minimizes downtime when manufacturing problems occur.

Sandia has developed several patented and award-winning approaches that analyze complex sensor signals and make compensating adjustments in real-time to processing conditions to maintain excellent product quality.


Selected Accomplishments













Contacts: Mike Hosking, (505) 845-8401,

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