Multimaterial 3D printing has become slightly more common recently, but it’s still complicated and difficult, especially in industrial 3D printing. Single material 3D printing is still much more common, but a group of researchers from Washington State University have made a breakthrough that could make multimaterial 3D printing much easier and more accessible. The researchers were able to 3D print with two materials in a single step, which could help manufacturers reduce the number of steps needed for their processes and use a single machine to make complex, multi-part objects in one operation.
The researchers, led by Amit Bandyopadhyay, Herman and Brita Lindholm Endowed Chair Professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Washington State, 3D printed structures containing metal and ceramic in one piece, as well as a bimetallic tube that is magnetic at one end and non-magnetic at the other.
This is big news for the manufacturing industry; if manufacturers are able to easily 3D print with multiple materials in one component, they will be better able to control properties such as heat conduction and corrosion protection, as well as environmental adaptation in their materials.
“This is a step towards the next level of manufacturing and the next generation of design, validation, optimization and manufacturing using 3D printing,” said Bandyopadhyay.
Multimaterial 3D printing will mean that manufacturers will no longer have to rely on adhesives to create multimaterial components. As strong as some adhesives are, they’re still not perfect.
“You could be joining two very strong materials together, but their connection will only be as strong as their adhesive,” said Bandyopadhyay. “Multimaterial, additive manufacturing helps get rid of the weak point.”
The researchers used a laser 3D printer to print a structure from Inconel 718, a nickel-chromium alloy, and copper. Inconel 718 is used for applications like liquid-fueled rockets and sheet metal parts for airplane engines. The material is good at withstanding high temperatures, but it cools very slowly. When copper was added to the part, however, it cooled 250 times faster. That amounts to longer life and higher fuel efficiency for airplane engines.
“Multimaterial additive manufacturing has opened the doors to so many different possible creations,” said Bandyopadhyay. “It has allowed us to be bolder and be more creative.”
The researchers also 3D printed a structure made from both metal and ceramic in a single piece.
“This allows us to vary the composition and add functionality to a product during 3D printing that is traditionally very difficult to achieve,” Bandyopadhyay said. “And we can do this in a single process with a single machine.”
The research was published in a paper entitled “Additive manufacturing of Inconel 718–Copper alloy bimetallic structure using laser engineered net shaping (LENS), which you can access here. Authors of the paper include Bonny Onuike, Bryan Heer and Amit Bandyopadhyay. Graduate students Tom Gualtieri and Yanning Zhang also participated in the research. The research was funded by Joint Center for Aerospace Technology Innovation, the National Science Foundation, and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.
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