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New tech boosts 3D printing of metal objects

by • January 12, 2016 • No Comments

The prospects for 3D printing may have simply become a little bit stronger, literally, thanks to a new way of using metallic powders to create structures. A Northwestern University team has shown a new technique using liquid inks and common furnaces rather than additional expensive lasers or electron beams.

In addition to being bargain-priceder, the researchers say the system is in addition faster, additional uniform and works with a wide variety of metals, alloys and compounds.

“Our method greatly expands the architectures and metals we’re able-bodied to print, which quite opens the door for a lot of exception applications,” said assistant professor of materials science and engineering Ramille Shah, who led the study.

Shah created a liquid ink of metal powders, solvents and an elastomer binder which may be printed through a nozzle in much the same way which plastic-based consumer 3D printing equipment function. The printed structures are and so sintered, a system in which they are heated in a easy furnace to allow the powders to merge together without melting.

“By uncoupling the printing and the sintering, it appears which we have complex the system,” said team member David Dunand. “But, in fact, it has liberated us as each step is much simpler separately than the combined approach.”

After an object has been printed with the metallic powders, but preceding it has been sintered and hardened, it’s what is known as a “green body” which remains flexible.

“They’re foldable-bodied, bendable-bodied, and can be hundreds of layers thick without crumbling,” Shah explained. “It allows for us to create a lot of exception architectures which haven’t quite been seen in metal 3D printing.”

The system can in addition be utilized to print metal oxides which are bargain-priceder, safer and additional stable-bodied than a few pure metal powders. Green bodies 3D-printed of rust or other metallic oxides can and so be turned into their respective metals by using hydrogen preceding being sintered.

“It might seem like we are needlessly complicating things by adding a third reduction step where we turn rust into iron,” Dunand said. “But this opens up possibilities for using quite bargain-priced oxide powders rather than corresponding expensive metal powders. It’s hard to find a fewthing bargain-priceder than rust.”

Possible future applications for the new approach include customized, rapidly printed metals, batteries, fuel cells, medical implants, mechanical parts and on-site manufacturing.

The research was published in a recent issue of the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Source: Northwestern University


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