Professor Frank Liou, right, is working with professor Jagannanthan Sarangapani to use 3D printers to make new materials that are not currently in existence.
Professor Frank Liou, right, is working with professor Jagannanthan Sarangapani to use 3D printers to make new materials that are not currently in existence.

Missouri University of Science and Technology scientists are developing additive manufacturing (AM) technology to create improved metals.

According to the researchers, the new materials could be stronger and lighter than conventional ones, which could make manufacturing more efficient and cheaper.

Dr Frank Liou and Dr Jagannanthan Sarangapani received a US$146,758 grant from the National Science Foundation to support their research, which uses AM process modeling, sensor network and process integration.

The structural amorphous metals (SAMs) are made through cyber-enabled additive manufacturing. Researchers us a laser to melt blown powder metal, which is deposited layer by layer to create whatever object is programmed into their computers. The aim is to get the cooling rate correct so that the metal is amorphous, instead of at the natural state of crystalline formation.

Because they’re random, SAMs are reportedly harder, stronger and have more fracture toughness than metals in their natural state. While a crystalline metal will break along its orderly cellular structure, an amorphous metal has no pattern and thus will resist breaking.

High strength

The metallic glass structure of SAMs also allows researchers to make materials that have low corrosive properties but high strength. The researchers hope to show how 3D printers can make bigger and bigger parts. If they can make bigger parts, those used in industry will be stronger than those using current manufacturing processes.

Liou also says it might be possible to make a new material with 10 times the strength of a conventional one, which would mean less material would be needed to get the same strength, lowering weight, size and production costs.

The technology could also be used to make functionally gradient materials (FGMs), which combine two metals that don’t combine easily, such as stainless steel and titanium or copper and steel. Properties of individual metals, such as thermal conductivity and mechanical strength, could be used for an aircraft or spaceship part. 

This story is reprinted from material from the Missouri University of Science and Technology with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier.