The traditional way of manufacturing bulk products made of metal is by molding. The new metallurgical method is soon to be 3D printing. It is the way of the future and it is accompanied by a host of advantages. Through the use of additive technologies together with 3D printing, things like titanium strength aluminum are possible. Titanium is about 6 times stronger than aluminum but 1.7 times denser. Imagine the benefits of a material like that in the field of aeronautical engineering.
There are several ways in which a metal 3D printer works. The dominant method being a powder bed fusion system, where an energy source (either laser or electron beam) fuses particles of metal powder together point by point, layer by layer until an object is complete. You can think of the powder as the ink. These systems have built-in mechanisms to control the energy source and the distribution of powder. The main types of powder bed fusion systems are Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) in the case or a laser beam energy source, or electron beam manufacturing (EBM) in the case of electron beam energy source.
Titanium is the optimal metal to use in manufacturing products for the aerospace industry. In order to be able to use titanium in a 3D printer a new composite had to be created because otherwise, on its own its powder is a fire and explosive hazard and cannot be used. An alternative would be to use aluminum since it is lightweight, foldable, and suitable for 3D printing. However, it alone is not strong or solid enough as a material for aeronautics.
The solution on how to strengthen aluminum 3D printing was proposed by a research team led by Professor Alexander Gromov from the NUST MISIS Department for Non-Ferrous Metals and Gold. The foundation of the new compound they developed is based on nitrides and aluminum oxides and obtained through combustion. The results of their research have been published in the highly rated scientific journal called Sustainable Materials and Technologies.
“We have developed a technology to strengthen the aluminum-matrix composites obtained by 3D printing, and we have obtained innovative precursor-modifiers by burning aluminum powders. Combustion products – nitrides and aluminum oxides – are specifically prepared for sintering branched surfaces with transition nanolayers formed between the particles. It is the special properties and structure of the surface that allows the particles to be firmly attached to the aluminum matrix and, as a result, [doubles] the strength of the obtained composites,” said Alexander Gromov.
The team is currently testing prototypes. Through developments in technology and construction materials such as this, the future of our man-made world holds infinite possibilities.