The US Department of Defense has contracted Desktop Metal to develop a high-volume manufacturing process to mass product cobalt-free hardmetal parts.

According to Desktop, the three-year US$2.45 million award will fund the development of a process aimed at manufacturing colbalt-free hardmetals into complex, net or near-net shaped parts without the use of any tooling.

This follows investigations by the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) to find a replacement for cobalt, traditionally used as a metallic binder material for cemented tungsten carbide. A cobalt free iron-nickel-zirconium alternative binder has been developed.

Desktop says that the project could help provide a more environmentally friendly method to mass produce metals, alloys, cermets, and composite parts with improved properties for both commercial and DoD applications.

The carbide hardmetals market is projected to grow to US$24 billion by 2024(3) and is used for cutting tools, abrasion and chemical resistant nozzles, parts for the oil and gas sector, parts for the chemical and textile industry, tools used in agriculture and mining, steel industry, consumer goods and sporting goods, parts for off-road transportation, aerospace and defense sector, construction, and in tools and dies for chip-less materials forming.

‘The novel Co-free hardmetal grade is expected to yield a high strength, high toughness, high hardness, and high wear resistance material,’ said Dr Nicholas Ku, Materials Engineer, CCDC Army Research Laboratory. ‘We believe combining this novel material with Desktop Metal’s Single Pass Jetting technology will have major applications not only in the defense sector but also in the commercial sector. Further, we believe this combined method will dramatically improve sustainability, reduce the use of a conflict mineral and provide an environmentally-friendly process to mass produce parts with superior properties.’

‘The success in this project will not only provide the hardmetal community with their eagerly desired Co-free hardmetal solution, but also result in the development of a tool-free processing technique capable of fabricating this class of materials into extremely complex shaped parts at speeds that can rival most other high-volume manufacturing techniques, opening up new horizons in the area of hardmetals and its applications,’ said Dr Animesh Bose, vice president of special projects for Desktop Metal, who will serve as principal investigator of the three-year project.

This story uses material from Desktop Metal, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier.