ORNL and Ames Laboratory to develop tailored metal alloy powders for additive manufacturing

Published on: Tuesday, 06 December 2016
ORNL and Ames Laboratory to develop tailored metal alloy powders for additive manufacturing

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) is issuing a $5 million grant to improve the materials used in industrial 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, by looking at new techniques for creating tailored metal alloy powders that meet specific requirements.

The project, led by the Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and supported by facilities at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, will research the use of high pressure gas atomization to control the properties and quality of the metal powders.

Ames Lab will first develop a computer model and simulation for the gas atomization process using a flow simulation code provided by National Energy Technology Laboratory. The findings will then be tested and verified at Ames’ powder synthesis facilities. ORNL will conduct the 3D printing tests using these newly developed customized materials. The lab is fully equipped with several metal 3D printers such as Arcam, Renishaw, DM3D, Concept Laser or ExOne

Iver Anderson, project leader and senior metallurgist at Ames Laboratory explains: “There’s a lot of intense interest focused on additive manufacturing with metal alloys, because there are so many potential applications. Industry has demands for prototyping parts, design development, reducing waste of expensive materials, and efficiently producing custom and legacy components for their customers (...) The customization capabilities are just not there, and we need to get there. That is going to be the key to commercially competitive additive manufacturing processes".

The commecially available metal powders for additive manufacturing are currently very limited, "if a manufacturer went to metal powder producers with a shopping list of the alloys and powder specifications they needed for their manufacturing process, they very likely wouldn’t find what they want,” says Anderson.  With a feasible and predictible way to prepare custom powder alloys, the use of metal 3D printing could be extended to many industries.

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