Jun 6, 2017 | By Julia

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has partnered with Dallas-based startup Momentum Technologies in the development, licensing, and commercialization of its groundbreaking 3D printed magnet technology.

The innovation first crossed the public’s radar back in November of 2016, when ORNL researchers proved that permanent magnets made by additive manufacturing can reliably outperform traditionally made magnets. As part of its initial study, the Department of Energy lab began fabricating isotropic, near-net-shape, neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) bonded magnets using the famed Big Area Additive Manufacturing machine.

The results were an instant success, producing 3D printed magnets that displayed magnetic, mechanical, and microstructural properties that were comparable or even better than those of traditionally made magnets (typically created through injection molding).

Now the ORNL has taken another huge step in pushing its 3D printed magnet technology forward, thanks to a new agreement with Momentum, a Dallas-based startup founded in 2016 by the Critical Materials Institute and the Department of Energy.

The new partnership will see Momentum commercialize the first 3D printed magnet produced from recycled materials. An extension of the young company’s commitment to its Membrane Solvent Extraction (MSX) technology, the ORNL-Momentum magnets will use MSX to recycle rare earth elements from electronic waste, an initiative Momentum was originally founded on.

In addition to matching the performance of (and even outperforming) traditionally made magnets, 3D printed NdFeB magnets produce virtually no waste during the manufacturing process. It’s a vast improvement from the 30-50% material waste produced by creating traditional magnets, and one that could see widespread adoption of the technology sooner versus later.

Other benefits of the ORNL-Momentum innovation include fast production times, bypassing the need for tooling, and the ability to produce increasingly complex shapes. According to ORNL, these magnets are suitable for diverse applications in automobiles, wind turbines, motors, generators, and even high speed rail transit.

“This work has demonstrated the potential of additive manufacturing to be applied to the fabrication of a wide range of magnetic materials and assemblies,” said John Ormerod, ORNL researcher and co-author of the study. “Many of our customers are excited to explore the commercial impact of this technology in the near future.”

Developed in the ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, the 3D printed magnets are now created using two additive manufacturing techniques: binder jetting and Big Area Additive Manufacturing.

As Momentum Technologies CEO Preston Bryant noted, sustainability is a key advantage of these 3D printing systems. “Bringing together these technologies through the Department of Energy’s Critical Materials Institute and ORNL allows us to create a sustainable domestic supply of low-cost magnets made from recycled materials recovered from hard disk drives,” he said.

Entering into a non-exclusive agreement, the new ORNL-Momentum deal leaves the door open for other companies around the world to benefit from the new 3D printed magnet technology. For that reason, it’s safe to expect this groundbreaking innovation to become widely adopted in the not-too-distant future.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Jeff Thompson wrote at 6/7/2017 10:27:41 PM:

Could these techniques be used to 3D print using superconducting materials to create superconducting magnets with complex shapes (like the Stellarator) for nuclear fusion?

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