Oct 22, 2018 | By Grijs

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS) have found a way to make much harder 3D prints in metal using Fused Filament Fabrication, which originates from the plastics processing industry.

© Fraunhofer IKTS

Extremely hard tools are mainly used in mass production for the automotive industry. Hardmetals consist of the metal binders nickel or cobalt and the hard phase tungsten carbide. Until now, cutting, drilling, pressing and punching tools have been extruded, injection-molded or produced using uniaxial or cold isostatic powder pressing. Although short production times and precisely controlled material properties make this process particularly interesting,  it often requires a complex and expensive post-processing. In addition, it is extremely difficult to realize complex or specific designs using powder pressing.

On the contrary, additive manufacturing enables complex geometries, but has been limited in terms of hardness and component size so far. The modern binder jetting 3D printing and the thermoplastic 3D printing (3DTP) have already been successfully used by IKTS with selected hard metal compositions. However, the parts produced by these process are not as strong as those made with the powder bed fusion approach. And the metal binder content and the size of these components are also limited.

Initially, IKTS adapted FFF process for ceramics and composite materials. Their new  experiments have revealed that by using much smaller metal particles in the composite filament they can achieve harder prints. “During FFF, 3D bodies are manufactured from a flexible, meltable filament," IKTS researchers explained. "For decades, Fraunhofer IKTS has got a proven powder metallurgical expertise. Thus, it was possible to produce the filament required for the FFF from hardmetal powders with organic binders. Depending on the materials structure, a reduced grain size and binder content can be used to specifically increase the hardness, compressive and flexural strength of hardmetals.”

Dr. Johannes Pötschke heads the Hardmetals and Cermets group at IKTS and confirms: "The filaments can be used as semi-finished products in standard 3D printers and, for the first time, make it possible to print hardmetals with a very low metal binder content of only eight percent and a fine grain size below 0.8 micrometers and thus allow extremely hard components with up to 1700 HV10."



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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