Engineers at University of Exeter in the U.K. have developed a process based on Selective Laser Melting (SLM) to produce 3D aluminum composite parts from inexpensive metal powders.
Selective Laser Melting is a form of 3D printing and it creates complicated parts by melting successive layers of powder using a laser source for form pattern.
Traditionally parts for cars and airplanes are made from aluminium and other reinforcement particles to make it light and strong. But the manufacturing methods such as casting and mechanical alloying are expensive especially when the part has a complex shape.
The new SLM techniques can product more complicated shapes with very low cost and can be applied to manufacture aluminium composite parts from specific powder mixtures. This process can be used to manufacture aluminum composite parts as pistons, drive shafts, suspension components, brake disks, and almost any structural components of cars and aircraft.
This work is led by Ph.D. candidate Sasan Dadbakhsh and lecturer Liang Hao at University of Exeter and published in the Journal of Alloys and Compounds.
The team used a laser to melt a mixture of very fine powders, such as aluminum with an iron oxide combination added as a reinforcing material.
SLM facilitated in-situ reaction and subsequent rapid solidification introduce very fine particles (down to ∼ 50-100 nm), reinforcing the microstructure of all Al (alloy) composites. The particles are Al-Fe intermetallics, Al oxides such as α-Al2O3, plus Si crystals (alone or in combination) depending on the alloy composition...The in-situ particle reinforced Al (alloy) composites are significantly harder than corresponding conventionally manufactured (e.g. casting) Al alloys without Fe2O3, due to superior microstructural characteristics such as featureless or very fine dendritic matrix, ultrafine/nanoscale particles, and also enhanced solid solubility of the SLM products.
The new materials have very fine particles compared with other composites, making them more robust. The reaction between constituents releases energy, which also means materials can be produced at a higher rate using less power. This technique is significantly cheaper and more sustainable than other SLM methods which directly blend very fine powders to manufacture composites.
This new technique can produce cheaper and more accurate parts and helps to "save a considerable amount of material, energy and cost for the production of one-off or small volume products."
"This advancement allows the rapid development of sustainable lightweight composite components," says Dr Liang Hao. "This particularly helps to save a considerable amount of material, energy and cost for the production of one-off or small volume products."
Posted in 3D Printing Technology
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