Materials Are the Ingredients that Enable Additive

The July issue of Additive Manufacturing magazine examines developments in metal alloys, polymers, ceramics and active materials.

Think about the last truly outstanding meal you had at a restaurant. What made that dish so good? The chef’s industrial gas stove or perfectly sharpened knife? His or her culinary education and skill? Those things probably played a role, but the ultimate quality of the food comes down to one thing: the raw material. Good ingredients, prepared thoughtfully, are the building blocks for an incredible meal.

So too, in additive manufacturing. Much attention is paid to the tools of AM—the printers, software and auxiliary equipment—as well as the personnel and skills needed, but ultimately the quality of a part depends on the material used to create it. Additive manufacturers have become adept at using the best existing ingredients for the job, but here manufacturing has an advantage over the culinary arts: new materials, customized and tailored to the 3D printing process, are becoming increasingly available.  

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That’s why the July issue of Additive Manufacturing magazine is devoted to materials, the enabling ingredients of AM. In the cover story of this issue, a conversation with Carpenter Technology illustrates how additive is moving past existing metal alloys and toward tailored options. The company’s recently introduced CarTech Puris 5+ titanium powder (pictured on the cover) is one illustration, offering a material with mechanical properties similar to standard Grade 5 titanium but a chemical makeup that has been customized for powder-bed 3D printing.

How do you ensure that a metal powder is uncontaminated, and that the part it builds is free of voids and inclusions? Thermo Fisher Scientific offers a machine that can inspect both the powder and the part, looking for exactly these issues.

On the polymer side, SABIC shares its perspective on how 3D printing materials will advance the plastics industry as well as challenge 3D printing technology. The materials supplier sees the greatest opportunity in developing new material options that will require nonstandard print profiles, and may even demand more capable printers.

New material developments are often driven by applications, as illustrated by the creation of Antero 800NA, a PEKK-based filament that will be used in parts for the Orion spacecraft. The material was created based on NASA’s requirements for a polymer with electro-static dissipative (ESD) properties, achieved through a carbon nanotube fill.

In other cases, 3D printing technology and materials develop simultaneously, each enabling the other. Steinbach offers one illustration, with its lithography-based ceramic manufacturing (LCM) technology that depends on a slurry of ceramic powder and UV-light-sensitive monomer to build high-performance ceramic parts. In another case, University of Minnesota researchers have been able to create ­soft robotics through a 3D printing process that enables layering hydrogel inks with silicone-based materials.

This issue also highlights a case study of a 3D-printed cylinder head, a hybrid process combining kinetic compacting 3D printing with five-axis machining, a robot gripper printed in one piece and a selection of AM products to be displayed at IMTS—The International Manufacturing Technology Show taking place September 10-15.

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