Headmade Materials Receives €1.9 Million in Funding for “Cold Metal Fusion” 3D Printing Process

Based in Wuerzburg, Germany, Headmade Materials not only offers patented sinter-based cold metal fusion (CMF) technology to its customers, but also encourages them to consider new ways to design and manufacture with 3D printing technology—while still falling back on conventional methods as needed. Its innovative and low-cost printing processes for metal have earned the company the attention of users seeking support in design, part manufacturing, and process integration, as the well as the recent reward of €1.9 million in funding from the Industrial Technologies Fund of btov Partners.

The hefty sum will be put toward “scaling up” its technology, according to a recent press release sent to 3DPrint.com. The company will also be developing customer and marketing services further. As a spinoff of Würzburg-based polymer research institute SKZ, the Headmade Materials team has been working on its cold metal fusion technology for five years. As it partners with btov, it is expected that research and development will progress more rapidly.

“We see the Cold Metal Fusion technology as a very viable approach for serial production due to the high cost efficiency of the process. The combination of mechanical part properties known from metal powder injection molding (MIM) process and considerable process advantages, such as reduced safety requirements due to easier powder handling and higher green part stability, is also significant here,” says Robert Gallenberger, partner of the btov Industrial Technologies Fund.

Cold metal fusion technology began at the hands of founders Christian Fischer and Christian Staudigel in 2015 while both were still employed at a research institute. Sharing an interest in machine building, their goal was to bring serial production to 3D printing—eliminating limitations, lack of affordability, and creating better designs for a range of applications.

The process is different from other 3D printing techniques as it combines metal sintering with SLS printing (usually reserved for manufacturing of 3D printing plastics). The key is in the plastic binder mixed into metal powder, allowing for more versatile use; for example, with cold metal fusion, metal parts can be printed on laser sintering systems meant for plastics like the EOS Formiga P110 or the Sintratec S2. The components are then placed in a debinder and then furnace for final sintering.

Headmade Materials claims that other benefits of CMF include the ability to use a greater range of “mature machine technology,” requiring no build plates or support structures. Users can count on savings in time and money, with increased productivity. Feedstock left un-used can easily be reused, and because of superior green part strength, both automated depowdering solutions and rough production environments are acceptable. Perhaps more importantly, because the process can be performed using existing SLS machines, owners of those systems can begin making metal parts without investing in new metal 3D printers, even the new generation of bound metal printing processes, like those from Desktop Metal.

“When it comes to the economical series production of complex metal parts, there is no way around 3D printing with the cold metal fusion technology,” says the Headmade Materials team in their white paper, “Cold Metal Fusion / Metal SLS Technology.”

Image from “Cold Metal Fusion / Metal SLS Technology,” illustrating the CMF process.

The Headmade Materials team plans to 3D print series with up to 100,000 parts per year. Currently, it offers its sinter-based 3D printing processes to customers, using optimized feedstocks and services whether in helping with design and production, in-house production, or ready-to-use final parts.

Overall, 3D printing with metal continues to increase in popularity for industrial users, from taking advantage of micro-gravity and 3D printing in space with the potential for large structures, to experimenting with new materials, and even furthering electronics with liquid alloys.

[Source: EU-Startups / Images: Headmade Materials]

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Russia Successfully Tests 3D Printed Engine

Russia continues to venture into additive manufacturing for critical applications, just releasing the successful results of a flight test for their 3D printed MGTD-20 Gas Turbine Engine. The Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects in the defense Industry relayed this new information to Russian state-controlled news agency, Sputnik:

“Russia has for the first time conducted flight tests of the MGTD-20 gas turbine engine made by 3D-printing,” the statement said.

Testing (resulting in a successful landing) was held at the Kazanbash aviation center in Tatarstan, about 500 miles east of Moscow—following successful evaluation also of gas turbine engines 3D printed last year. The device passed altitudes of 170 meters during testing, with a maximum ground speed of 154 kilometers per hour. According to the Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects, engine speed was noted at 101,600 rpm, while was working speed was 58,000 rpm.

Exemplifying the benefits of 3D printing, the Russian engineers have reported that they were able to decrease production time exponentially; in fact, they are now not only manufacturing the components for aircraft 20 times faster, but they have also been able to cut the cost factor significantly.

These improvements fall in line with many of the advantages of using what most may consider to be a new and progressive technology; however, organizations like NASA have known about—and have been employing 3D printing—for several decades. While the technology was originally used by engineers for rapid prototyping of parts then produced via conventional manufacturing, more commonly now high-performance, strong, lightweight, and functional components are being 3D printed.

This is true for numerous other critical applications to include medical, aerospace, automotive, and construction. In some cases, strides already made within 3D printing have transformed industries like medicine and aerospace, while yet others like construction are still slowly evolving with some promises from developers continuing to be proven overinflated.

Manufacturing of the aircraft is expected in 2021-2022. The engines are 3D printed with heat-resistant aluminum alloys meant for serious industrial use, offering a 22-kilogram-force thrust. The project was developed in coordination with the Fund for Advanced Research and the Federal State Unitary Enterprise “VIAM” State Scientific Center of the Russian Federation with the participation of JSC NPO OKB im. M.P. Simonov.

The Russians have certainly not been devoid of headlines regarding 3D printing, including their latest news at the International Space Station as Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko bioprinted cartilage to advance regenerative medicine in space while in zero gravity conditions. In other projects, Russian researchers have experimented with 3D printing titanium for medical implants, and have also ventured into the area of construction of homes that can be manufactured onsite, and quickly so.

In the US, 3D printing for rocket engines has continued, with dynamic projects continue to evolve via NASA—from new methods to fabricate complex rocket engine nozzles to collaborating with businesses like Aerojet Rocketdyne for production of RS-25 engine rockets, while other companies like Launcher and AMCM have been behind the successful production of a large single-part 3D printed rocket.

[Sources: Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects; Affairs Cloud; Big News Network / Image: Big News Network]

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RAG & Gavco Partnership Shows Potential for 3D Printing Bridge to Injection Molding

Broken Arrow, Oklahoma-headquartered companies Rapid Application Group (RAG), and Gavco Plastics have announced a partnership that will combine their complementary expertise in manufacturing.

RAG, founded in 2017 by a group of seasoned military and additive manufacturing specialists, has grown quickly in offering customized solutions of “meticulous quality” for its customers. Gavco Plastics, founded in 1976, is a family-owned company founded on conventional technology like injection molding. Together, the two firms plan to combine AM with injection molding to benefit and protect supply chains in a variety of industrial applications to include aerospace and automotive.

Direct metal laser sintering by RAG (Image: RAG)

In collaborating, both RAG and Gavco are on a mission not only to make certain that production is not disrupted for customers but also allow them to enjoy the benefits of 3D printing, as well as traditional methods. Parts can be produced faster, more affordably, and in many cases may offer better quality and performance. In close proximity to each other, the manufacturing partners plan to create a project group to work together in prototyping, printing, and analyzing iterations of parts. Afterward, they plan to enter into low rate initial production (LRIP) and then move on to mass production via injection molding.

“2020 has demonstrated that additive manufacturing is suitable for production-grade parts, at a low volume,” said Jason Dickman, COO, Rapid Application Group. “It can fill the need for parts while mold tooling is being created, giving customers the time and flexibility to figure out just how many parts will be needed.”

Not only have supply chains been extremely vulnerable, due to greater exposure in news and social media many individuals and businesses have continued to come together to try and close extremely concerning gaps in production; for instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries were in need of protective gear like masks and face shields, as well as important medical devices like ventilators for patients. The development and manufacturing of swabs have become central for some companies who were otherwise engaged in other innovations previously and in some cases completely shifted their focus to fill a critical need in the medical realm.

FDM 3D printing by RAG (Image: RAG)

As RAG and Gavco continue forward, their hope is to help customers recover their equilibrium while still adjusting to recent changes in the national and worldwide “norm” and economy. Outlined in their partnership are the following plans for aerospace customers:

  • Prototyping and re-working designs for new parts, experimenting with materials that will then be used n mass production (thus saving time in production overall)
  • Decreasing time and expense with the use of AM processes with LRIP
  • Producing short runs without tooling
  • Using injection molding for mass production to meet demands in supply chain

“Gavco Plastics, like RAG, is part of the Oklahoma State effort to become one of the US’ top 10 states in GDP. This kind of partnership will help make the state one of the most responsive hubs for manufacturing OEMs,” said Terry Hill, CEO, Rapid Application Group.

[Source / Images: finanzen.net]

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Farsoon Releases Flight 252 High Temperature 3D Printing Platform

Following the progress of many manufacturers over the years, it is clear that users around the globe are not left wanting for the new technology and new resources required to keep reaching for the stars while innovating. China’s Farsoon Technologies (with headquarters also in the US and Germany) is a dynamic example of this system—within an industry worth billions—continuing to serve customers with new printers, platforms, and materials within the additive manufacturing space.

Now, Farsoon moves further forward with its Flight Technology (initially unveiled at TCT Asia 2019) for the compact Flight 252P platform. Two new plastic powders are also being released, and Farsoon claims they will not only improve performance in parts, but also savings on the bottom line. With over 25 years in the industry, Farsoon is a pioneer in the plastic laser sintering solutions market and its team expects to continue pushing forward in terms of enhancing efficiency in production, performance, and expansion.

Notably, these new products are being announced at TCT Asia 2020, running from July 8-10. This is the “first physical trade show” the Farsoon team will be attending since the COVID-19 viral pandemic forced show cancellations around the world. Visitors will be able to check out the new platform in person now, finding out more about high-temperature printing, reaching from 220°C (HT) to 280°C (ST). Other features of the new system include better thermal control, improved parameters, and temperature-shielded components.

The 252P is smaller, making it suitable for laboratories as well as onsite for small-scale production. This new platform also provides industrial users with the opportunity to use a wider range of materials. In comparison to typical laser sintering systems, Farsoon also promises that the Flight 252P offers more latitude for developers in terms of materials and applications. Comprehensive processing is offered, and along with a smaller laser spot size (and better laser longevity) comes “greatly increased power.”

The new materials offer the following:

  • PA12 based FS3201PA-F powder for Flight Technology – for applications like auto, electronics, and consumer markets, this advanced formula is meant to offer better durability and reusability.
  • FS2300PA-F polyamide powder is meant to offer users better affordability, faster production, as well as “excellent plasticity.”

Farsoon continues to be known for its advances in additive manufacturing, collaborations with other global leaders, and sales of large installations of hardware.  Are you interested in joining the Farsoon early adopter program? If so, contact globalinfo@farsoon.com for more information.

[Source / Images: Farsoon]

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FELIXprinters Adds Two High-Temperature 3D Printing Systems to Industrial Portfolio

Family-run industrial 3D printing solutions provider FELIXprinters, headquartered in IJsselstein, the Netherlands since 2010, works to create what it calls “holistic AM solutions” for its customers , developing “tailor-made” platforms for specific applications, rather than simply selling off-the-shelf solutions. A year ago, soon after the introduction of its Pro 3, the Dutch company added the FELIX PRO L and XL 3D printers to its portfolio, which scaled its precision technology up to more large-scale build volumes. The robust systems reliably provide larger parts, without giving up the quality that FELIXprinters is known for, and can easily fit into workshop spaces.

Not long ago, the company launched its first 3D bioprinting system, and now, even amidst the many challenges brought on by the global COVID-19 crisis, has been busy at work. This week, FELIXprinters announced the addition of a new range made of two high-temperature 3D printers.

“Like all businesses as we moved through the first quarter of 2020, we have had to adapt and adjust the way that we work. As soon as it was obvious that the coronavirus pandemic was going to severely disrupt the usual way of working, we made some far reaching and strategic moves to ensure the continuity of production or our 3D printers, and also our relationships with our customers. First and foremost, we had to ensure that our FELIX team could operate in a way that they were comfortable with and which guaranteed their safety. So from very early on, we ensured that they had masks, had access to all the sanitiser and hygiene measures that they needed, and that we put in place protocols that meant everyone in the factory could work while maintaining social distancing requirements,” said Wilgo Feliksdal, Co-Founder of FELIXprinters.

“Once this had been arranged, and with the continued demand for our industrial range of 3D printers and our newly introduced BIOprinter still high, it became clear to us that we were in a position to continue our 2020 plans relatively uninterrupted. Earlier in the year we had received a tender from a large multinational client looking at the possibility that we could produce a series of high temperature 3D printers, and we have now geared up to produce these in large batches through Q2 and Q3.”

While we don’t yet know the name of these new high-temperature AM systems, we do know that they feature customizable print heads, a 600 x 600 x 600 mm build volume, and a secure enclosure with a HEPA filter.

High-temperature 3D printing makes it possible to use stronger, advanced, and functional engineering-grade materials, such as PEKK, PEI, and polyamides, which then allows manufacturers to fabricate parts that are needed for rapid prototyping purposes, and practical end use applications, in the aerospace, engineering, and architecture industries. As the new FELIXprinters high-temperature systems can print anywhere from 100-400°C, I’d say they fit the bill.

“There is no doubt that we are in unprecedented times, and we like many companies operating in the 3D printing space are having to adapt our ways of working as we begin to defeat the coronavirus, and we are delighted that despite everything we have successfully developed our high temperature solutions,” said Guillaume Feliksdal, FELIXprinters Co-Founder. “In many ways, the 3D printing sector is unique in that it is likely to see an upswing in attention as globally, companies begin to reassess and localise their supply chains. At FELIXprinters, the continued demand for our industrial 3D printers, the enormous interest in our BIOprinter, and the recent developments we have made in term of high temperature additive manufacturing show the vibrancy of the niche, and also demonstrate the resilience of industry as we all drive on and innovate, even in these difficult times. I feel we have the edge in many areas due to an exceptional, dedicated, and passionate team, and I would like to thank each and every one of them for their hard work and talents.”

While the new high-temperature 3D printers aren’t available just yet, FELIXprinters has said that they are mere weeks away from commercial use. So we’ll have to stay tuned for more information.

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Concrete 3D Printing: Nailing Layers for Added Reinforcement

Researchers from France and the UK seek ways to improve 3D printing for construction, revealing their analysis in the recently published ‘Nailing of Layers: A Promising Way to Reinforce Concrete 3D Printing Structures.’

Concrete extrusion is a continuing source of innovation for the construction industry, lending promise to 3D printed offices, homes, and entire village concepts—as well as added potential for more affordable housing. Greater affordability, speed in production, less need for manpower, and the ability to create composites for better performance are just a few of the benefits.

“Recent research on 3D printing has almost all been focused on mix-design, rheological and process related issues. It has allowed the production of a physically-based background in order to formulate concrete with the required fresh properties, and allowed us to evaluate a time window during which it is possible to deposit a new layer of cement-based material,” stated the researchers.

“Nowadays, some technical solutions have emerged in the development of successful concrete printing, and researchers have started to work on the structural performances of reinforced and unreinforced concrete printed structures.”

Additional reinforcements are the only way for some structures, including infrastructure like bridges, to adhere to standards in design. Contemporary solutions may include steel reinforcements or the use of cables, or fibers made of the following materials:

  • Steel
  • Basalt
  • Glass
  • Bio-based materials
  • Polymeric fibers

In this study, the scientists experimented with the use of nails, driven through several layers after they were 3D printed. The overall goal was to offer ductility, tensile, and shear strength—while also offering greater strength in between layers.

“This strategy can be easily automated using a robotic placement of the nail which can be a real advantage and beneficial in the context of digital construction,” stated the researchers.

Placement of nails was studied regarding gradient of mechanical properties, along with evaluating reinforcement effects through three-point flexural tests examining orientation, surface roughness, and steel density.

(a) Nails before and after rusting treatment; (b) Considered nail geometry.

Three-layer samples and ten-layer samples were fabricated with 10 × 25 mm² rectangular cross section layers of mortar with a screw extrusion system mounted on a WASP 3MT Industrial 4.0 printer.

Picture of the printing system: printer, printing head and nozzle.

Manufactured samples geometries: (a) schematic views; (b) pictures of samples after bending tests.

Bending resistance was tested, along with post-peak behavior, and the potential for durability issues and corrosion of steel. Numerous issues must be considered to avoid corrosion, beginning with permeability, as it must be ‘the lowest possible’ to decrease carbonation and any resulting corrosion. Covers must be used to protect steel, with other materials like fly ash or granulated slag preventing steel nail corrosion. Other solutions include using stainless steel, glass, basalts, or carbon to avoid corrosion.

“It was also demonstrated that reinforcement, by using nails, was able to efficiently strengthen printed samples if the orientation of the nails was correctly chosen and the nails surface was sufficiently rough to ensure a good interface with the mortar,” said the researchers.

“In conclusion, this investigation paved a new path towards fully automated selective steel nail placements as reinforcements during the digital fabrication of concrete in order to strengthen the concrete structure.”

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Effect of the surface roughness on the post-peak behavior of the reinforced samples.

[Source / Images: ‘Nailing of Layers: A Promising Way to Reinforce Concrete 3D Printing Structures’]

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International Researchers Analyze Corrosion Properties in 3D Printed AISI 316L Steel

Researchers from the Czech Republic and Poland continue the trend in exploring and expanding materials for 3D printing and additive manufacturing, releasing their findings in the recently published ‘Complex Corrosion Properties of AISI 316L Steel Prepared by 3D Printing Technology for Possible Implant Applications.’

Noting some of the benefits in 3D printing that are specific to this study, the authors mention one of the most important factors: with progressive technology like selective laser melting (SLM), industrial users can look forward to creating complex geometries that may not have been possible before—ultimately resulting in parts that offer better performance and functionality for a wide range of applications.

Many different types of 3D printing technology and materials are opening up a new world of options in the development of parts for aerospace, automotive, and more—but the medical industry has already been widely impacted—especially regarding medical models and medical devices like implants.

While extreme durability is often not required as much for prototypes, as 3D printing has become attractive to users for the fabrication of functional parts, there is often much to be considered—from software, hardware, and materials, to printing parameters that can have a significant effect on mechanical properties and overall quality of components. For medical devices such as implants, biocompatibility and safety for the patient are critical factors too.

Stainless steel and metal 3D printing have been increasing in popularity as users on all levels continue to refine the development and production of functional parts, as well as preventing serious issues like corrosion. As samples were created for this study, the main goal was to compare and analyze the properties of AISI 316L prepared by SLM and classical AISI 316L.

“Investigations were performed on the austenitic stainless steel AISI 316L prepared by the additive manufacturing process from atomized powder certified by Renishaw with an average particle size of 45 ± 15 μm,” explained the researchers.

Chemical composition of atomized AISI 316L powder according to Renishaw certification.

Parameters of SLM process.

Samples were fabricated in the shape of an ‘H,’ cleansed, and then soaked in acetone for five minutes. Middle sections of each sample were then removed to avoid overheating and the possibility of any changes to structure.

Samples for further testing.

All samples displayed porosity, with pore character proving to be ‘analogical for all samples,’ and microcracks apparent in the sharp edges. Very few pores displayed smooth edges, and in those cases, they were connected to gas trapped in the microstructure.

Microstructure of pores in detail, showing nonmelted round particles inside.

Chart of OCP evolution in 169 hours exposition for each sample.

“The corrosion rate obtained by potentiodynamic polarization method was deeply under the recommended limit. The reference sample demonstrated the most promising results of corrosion rate, especially after 169 h exposure,” concluded the researchers. “The highest values of corrosion rate were measured for the sample after 1050 °C heat treatment and after 1 h exposition in saline solution. The signs of corrosion came in the form of the selective dissolving of microstructural components, leaving cellular-like reliefs on the exposed surfaces rather than in the corrosion pits.”

“According to these results, SLM stainless steel AISI 316 shows promising properties for manufacturing medical instruments or implants, preferably for short term implantations. It was proven that heat treatment of SLM samples from AISI 316 increases their corrosion rate under the conditions of the human body. According to the results from this study, high temperature heat treatment should not be used for implants with long-term applications, wherein the amount of released ions from corroded material increases with time.”

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[Source / Images: ‘Complex Corrosion Properties of AISI 316L Steel Prepared by 3D Printing Technology for Possible Implant Applications’]

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German Manufacturers Heraeus AMLOY and TRUMPF Collaborate to 3D Print Industrial Amorphous Parts

Two German companies are collaborating to begin 3D printing industrial amorphous metals—also known as metallic glass and twice as strong as steel—offering greater elasticity and the potential to produce lightweight products. Heraeus AMLOY brings expertise in the production and processing of amorphous metals while TRUMPF introduces powerful experience in additive manufacturing.

Amorphous expansion sleeve
(Source: Heraeus AMLOY)

The overall goal in this partnership is to see amorphous parts take their place in standard production, as well as enjoying the many benefits offered by 3D printing, mainly in affordability and better performance in production. Another added bonus is that 3D printing offers engineers much greater latitude during 3D design and printing, not only meaning that they are able to work on-demand for parts but they can also create and make changes to prototypes or components quickly without a middleman.

Amorphous parts display isotropic behavior, evident in materials like glass or metal—meaning that properties are the same in every direction. Applications like aerospace and mechanical engineering will benefit especially with the use of amorphous metals in production, as well as the medical field due to biocompatibility.

“Amorphous metals hold potential for numerous industries. For example, they can be used in medical devices – one of the most important industries for additive manufacturing. That is why we believe this collaboration is such a great opportunity to make even more inroads into this key market with our industrial 3D printing systems,” says Klaus Parey, managing director TRUMPF Additive Manufacturing.

TruPrint 2000 – The new TruPrint 2000 3D printer from TRUMPF is the ideal choice for printing amorphous metals from Heraeus AMLOY. (Source: TRUMPF)

3D printing also leads to the potential for new applications with amorphous metals:

“3D printing of amorphous components in industry is still in its infancy. This new collaboration will help us speed up printing processes and improve surface quality, ultimately cutting costs for customers. This will make the technology more suitable for a wider range of applications, some of which will be completely new,” says Jürgen Wachter, head of the Heraeus AMLOY business unit.

It is easy to understand why the two companies see the benefit of using a 3D printer for amorphous metals as they are created via molten metal that cools rapidly. Fabrication can be performed on a large scale and at a lighter weight, reducing the use of materials and eliminating extra waste. Parts can also be created in one piece rather than numerous parts that must be assembled afterward.

Heraeus AMLOY is currently optimizing their amorphous alloys for use with TRUMPF’s TruPrint systems, especially the latest-generation TruPrint 2000 machine.

“Two 300-watt lasers scan the machine’s entire build chamber in parallel. Using a laser focal diameter of just 55 micrometers, users can carry out both low and high-volume production of amorphous parts with extremely high surface quality. The ‘Melt Pool Monitoring’ function automatically monitors the quality of the melt pool, so any errors in the process are spotted at an early stage,” state the companies in a press release sent to 3DPrint.com.

Customers already working with TRUMPF 3D printers can use them for processing of Heraeus AMLOY zirconium-based alloys. Together, the two companies hope to make copper and titanium alloys available to customers for 3D printing soon.

Metal 3D printing is being used around the world today in a variety of industries, to include aerospace, automotive, medical, and more. What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts! Join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com.

From left to right: The project team from Heraeus AMLOY and TRUMPF Additive Manufacturing: Hans-Jürgen Wachter (Head of Business Unit Heraeus AMLOY), André Kobelt (Chief Commercial and Technology Officer of Heraeus Holding), Moritz Stolpe (Heraeus AMLOY), Valeska Melde (Heraeus AMLOY), Arwed Kilian (TRUMPF Additive Manufacturing), Klaus Parey (Managing Director TRUMPF Additive Manufacturing), JanChristian Schauer (TRUMPF Additive Manufacturing). (Source: Heraeus AMLOY)

[Source / Images: Trumpf Media]

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Improving Foundry Production of Metal Sand Molds via 3D Printing

Saptarshee Mitra has recently published a doctoral thesis, ‘Experimental and numerical characterization of functional properties of sand molds produced by additive manufacturing (3D printing by jet binding) in a fast foundry.’ Delving into hybrid casting and improved methods for creating metal molds, Mitra analyzes varied printing parameters and their effects on mechanical properties.

Centered around improving production in foundries, the author investigates ways to create molds in a completely automated manner, taking advantage of some of the most classic benefits in 3D printing—from greater affordability and faster production time, to better quality in prototypes and parts.

“Besides, the absence of tooling costs makes this process particularly economical, and much complex geometry that cannot be manufactured using traditional sand casting can be reconsidered,” states Mitra. 3D printers are generally faster, easier to use and cheaper than other add-on technologies. It is also possible to make foundry sand molds of extremely small dimensions and very thin parts. Modern foundry industries gradually use this Hybrid Casting technology because they provide ease of sand molding with good surface finish.”

The goal of Mitra’s thesis is to create molds for metal casting with greater stiffness and permeability—ultimately, for use in both the aerospace and automotive industries—applications we have seen significantly impacted by AM processes from car parts to rocket engines, to the qualification of important end-use parts.

(a) Ancient Greece; bronze statue casting circa 450BC, (b) Iron works in early Europe: cast-iron cannons from England circa 1543 [4]

“Sand casting is the most widely used metal casting process in manufacturing, and almost all casting metals can casted in sand molds,” explained Mitra. “Sand castings can range in size from very small to extremely large. Some notable examples of items manufactured in modern industry by sand casting processes are engine blocks, machine tool bases, cylinder heads, pump housings, and valves.”

Metal casting requires:

  • Proper design
  • Suitable choice in material
  • Production of patterns for molds and cores
  • Selection of the casting process
  • Post-processing
  • Quality control

“Three-dimensional printing (3DP) of sand molds using binder jetting technology overcomes challenges faced in the traditional production method, e.g., limitations in terms of part complexity and size, production time and cost (which depends on the quantity and the part complexity, optimization in part design/design freedom for any castable alloys,” states Mitra.

Schematic representation of particle binder bonding and resin

Powder binder jetting process

A series of chemically bonded 3D printed samples were examined. While binder amounts were evaluated by Loss on ignition (LOI) experiments, mechanical strength was measured via standard 3-point bending tests. Permeability was measured by the air flow rate through the ‘samples at a given pressure.’

Mitra learned that molds could be stored extensively at room temperature, but permeability of samples did decrease as temperature was raised.

Printing recipe on ExOne 3D printer

3D printed 3PB test bars and permeability specimens

The author also noted that strength of the molds was ‘profoundly influenced’ by binder content, with increased amounts consequently increased mechanical strength.

“X-ray µ-CT images were used to compute the porosity, pore size, throat size and the permeability of the 3D printed specimens for different binder contents and grain sizes, using analytical and numerical methods,” concluded Mitra. “The permeability predicted in the steady-state was compared with experimental and analytical measurements for layered silica grain arrangement. A major advantage of using X-ray CT characterization is the nondestructive nature of the tests. The computed permeability can be used as input to numerical simulations of metal casting allowing the prediction of macroscopic defects.”

“The present findings represent a step forward towards improved prediction of mass transport properties of the 3DP sand molds. However, further characterization of permeability of such additively processed sand mold should be performed with varying average grain diameter, to check the convergence of the present model. Also, samples printed with other printing process parameters should be studied.”

Steps involved, (a) 3D printing of sand mold, (b) melting iron, (c) casting process
and (d) eroded molded with the respective positioning of thermocouples.

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[Source / Images: ‘Experimental and numerical characterization of functional properties of sand molds produced by additive manufacturing (3D printing by jet binding) in a fast foundry’]

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Researchers 3D Printing for Contaminant Removal with 3D Printed Zeolite Monoliths

International researchers explore methods for removing contaminants in their recently published ‘Nuclear wastewater decontamination by 3D-Printed hierarchical zeolite monoliths.’ Focusing on the radioactive cationic species, 137Cs+ and 90Sr2+, this study brings greater exposure to the need for selective removal of radionuclides.

Harkening back to the disasters that occurred at Chernobyl in 1986 and the Fukushima Daiichi plant in 2011, the research team reminds us of the intense need to handle nuclear waste properly. The two radionuclides, 137Cs and 90Sr, are the ‘most likely to contaminate water bodies’ – with 137Cs being a large part of the Fukushima cleanup; however, aluminosilicate zeolites play a huge part in treatment—and removal of contaminants.

“Nuclear waste treatment can be demanding, in some cases the radionuclides must be removed from highly radioactive solutions that are also extremely acidic or caustic, where natural zeolites suffer due to their nature as aluminosilicates,” explain the authors. “Various synthetic materials such as titano-, zircono-silicates or metal oxides have been developed and proved more useful in these cases.”

Stating that they have created a ‘breakthrough solution,’ the authors present a method for 3D printing ion exchanger monoliths. Pointing out that the technology has been used in numerous applications to fabricate nanotubes, nanoparticles, and a variety of piezoelectric products, 3D printing is also used in dry applications regarding gas absorption, separation, and more.

“To date, no 3D-printed zeolite monoliths have been produced specifically for ion exchange of aqueous media where they would need to be both insoluble and stable with regards shape retention over time when exposed to water,” stated the researchers.

Digital light processing (DLP) was used in this work, allowing for the required customization and control over issues like porosity. The research team mixed photopolymerizable monomers with zeolite powder, taking advantage of the ability to modify the binder’s properties in terms of:

  • Stretchability
  • Temperature responsivity
  • Hydrophobicity

(a) Schematic overview of the printing process; first dispersion of the zeolite was formed within the polymerizable monomers and porogenic solvent, then the formulation was 3D-printed by the DLP method. (b and c) The printed zeolite-embedded monolithic structures.

Two cylindrical zeolite samples were printed, in the form of synthetic chabazite and commercial zeolite 4A. It was critical for the 3D printed zeolite to allow the solution to flow through the column, with the polymeric matrix providing access for the cations.

(a) TGA curve of 3D-CHA. (b and c) Comparison between the PXRD of zeolite powders and the zeolite embedded printed structures (b) 3D-CHA and pure chabazite powder; (c) 3D-4A and pure zeolite 4A powder. The patterns of the printed systems have been offset for clarity. (d–f) N2 adsorption isotherms of (d) 3D-CHA; (e) the pure chabazite powder; (f) the printed polymer.

With the ultimate goal being the ability to remove Cs or Sr, the team tested the samples for ion exchange (using SEM-EDX, Infinite Focus Microscopy (IFM), XRD and X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy).

SEM images of Cs-exchanged 3D-printed monolith (a) an overview (b) side view (c) top view of the rod taken from the grid.

Overall, the monoliths exhibited ‘good mechanical stability, and the researchers confirmed that DLP 3D printing offered the required control necessary—also allowing them to create the proper degree of porosity and good internal matrix structure.

IFM images of 3D-printed monolith (a) before and (b) after Cs ion exchange and their profile measurements.

SEM image, EDX results and elemental mapping of Cs-exchanged 3D-CHA.

“In the case of nuclear waste treatment, in addition to the above-mentioned advantages, the printed columns enable simple and safe handling of the contaminated ion exchanger and may significantly reduce the risks and difficulties that rise when dealing with radioactive contaminated powders,” concluded the researchers. “We have not tested the radiological stability of the polymer matrix, but as the radioactive cations are trapped within the inorganic zeolite particles, we would not expect any release of these into the environment even with polymer degradation.”

“The polymer should also not significantly interfere with the thermal conversion of the spent exchangers into ceramic or vitreous wasteforms as it would be readily oxidized during the process without release of any radionuclides.”

(a) Schematic diagram of an ion exchange column, (b) photograph of a packed column.

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[Source / Images: ‘Nuclear wastewater decontamination by 3D-Printed hierarchical zeolite monoliths’]

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