Jan 7, 2016 | By Kira

A consortium of ten partner organizations across seven EU countries, led by Italy’s MBN Nanomaterialia, is currently working on the design, scale-up and build of a proprietary, high energy ball-mill (HEBM) pilot plant that will be capable of producing innovative nanostructured powders for use in additive manufacturing and other high-value manufacturing applications.

Known as PilotManu, the project aims to develop and commercialize advanced powders whose nano-scale features will allow for significant improvements in material performance, such as enhanced strength, reduced weight and corrosion or thermal resistance—all of which are highly valued in the additive manufacturing of parts for the aerospace, automotive, defense and medical sectors, as well as other high-value manufacturing applications such as cutting tools.

The pilot manufacturing line, which has been in development since 2013 and is due for completion in September 2017, seeks to increase production of current HEBM facilities by ten times and will allow participating organizations to enter the market for three key lines of innovative products and technologies: the diamond tool industry, CerMet and alloys for wear resistance coatings, and new mechanical alloyed composites for additive manufacturing.

Funded partially by the European Union’s Framework Programme Seven (FP7), the €5.3 million project involves the cooperation of ten partner organizations with various capabilities including process engineering, materials investigation, product development and prototyping, characterization, application testing and process economics.

The PilotManu project partners are the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), MBN Manomaterialia, IMDEA Materials Institute, +90, Putzier, INOP, Manudirect, IMPACT INNOVATIONS, Matres and Diam Edil. Having entered its third and penultimate year, the project is well underway and participants have recorded “excellent results” regarding the performance of their advanced powders for use in abrasive tools, as well as the development of the pilot plant.

Advanced nanostructured powders are high sought-out as their ultrafine, crystalline structures allow for significant improvements in physical-chemical-mechanical properties when compared against bulk-scale materials. However, the commercialization of these powders remains extremely difficult due to low-productivity and high material costs.

Through its proprietary high energy ball milling technology, developed by lead partner MBN Nanomaterialia, PilotManu is working to reduce costs while scaling-up productivity by as much as ten times. The success of the project would lead to new product opportunities across a range of sectors, including automotive and aerospace, but also in healthcare and energy.

“We are delighted with the progress of the PilotManu project so far. The consortium has been able to design and scale-up the manufacturing process. The pilot plant will come online in the next few months and we anticipate the production of some truly innovative powders which will be validated for their suitability and performance in a number of value adding applications,” said Dr Charanjeet Singh, Innovation Manger at CPI.

“We expect that the High Energy Ball Milling pilot plant being developed in the PilotManu project will enable MBN Nanomaterialia to overcome the productivity and cost barriers that are currently preventing the commercialization of the advanced nanomaterials,” added Project Coordinator and Professor Paolo Matteazzi from MBN Nanomaterialia.

“Beside applications being developed in the project, the new pilot line will allow us to exploit the potential of advanced materials synthesised by HEBM in additional areas such as energy harvesting materials using high temperature thermoelectrics, metal hydrides for energy storage and high temperature ODS alloys for fossil energy application and also nano-composite polymers for functional textiles and packaging,” he continued.

With market research projecting that the 3D printing powder market will reach $639.9 million by 2020, with metal powders taking top spot as the most dominant of 3D printing powder materials, the PilotManu project shows great promise for groundbreaking innovation and product development within this burgeoning and important additive manufacturing field. The project is also particularly important for the Europe, which has fallen significantly behind North America in terms of 3D printing powder innovation and production.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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