Oct. 16, 2014

At the Materials Science & Technology 2014 conference in Pittsburgh, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have demonstrated a metal 3D printing technique that controls the structure and properties of metal components with precision on a microscopic scale.

The electron backscatter diffraction image shows variations in crystallographic orientation in a nickel-based component, achieved by controlling the 3-D printing process at the microscale. (Image credit: ORNL)

Ryan Dehoff, staff scientist and metal additive manufacturing lead at ORNL said that this method will allow engineers to make metal parts that are stronger, lighter and function better than those made by conventional manufacturing processes.

Using an ARCAM electron beam melting system (EBM), in which successive layers of a metal powder are fused together by an electron beam into a three-dimensional product, the technique can control the microstructure, or crystallographic texture, of a nickel-based part during formation.

According to the ORNL, crystallographic texture plays an important role in determining a material's physical and mechanical properties. Applications from microelectronics to high-temperature jet engine components rely on tailoring of crystallographic texture to achieve desired performance characteristics.

"We're using well established metallurgical phenomena, but we've never been able to control the processes well enough to take advantage of them at this scale and at this level of detail," said Suresh Babu, the University of Tennessee-ORNL Governor's Chair for Advanced Manufacturing. "As a result of our work, designers can now specify location specific crystal structure orientations in a part."

Other contributors to the research are ORNL's Mike Kirka and Hassina Bilheux, University of California Berkeley's Anton Tremsin, and Texas A&M University's William Sames. The research was supported by the Advanced Manufacturing Office in DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Posted in 3D Printing Technology

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