A Breakthrough to Potentially Reshape the Entire 3D Printing Space

The human arsenal has always been expansive beyond all known limits, and yet it still hasn’t seen an element more significant than that desire of ours to improve at a consistent pace. We can claim what we did because the stated desire has already fetched the world some huge milestones, with technology appearing as a major member of the group. The reason why we hold technology in such a high regard is, by and large, predicated upon its skill-set, which guided us towards a reality that nobody could have ever imagined. Nevertheless, if we look beyond the surface for a second, it will become clear how the whole runner was also very much inspired from the way we applied those skills across a real world environment. The latter component, in fact, did a lot to give the creation a spectrum-wide presence, and as a result, initiate a full-blown tech revolution. Of course, this revolution then went on to scale up the human experience through some outright unique avenues, but even after achieving a feat so notable,  technology will somehow continue to bring forth the right goods. The same has turned more and more evident in recent times, and assuming one new discovery ends up with the desired impact, it will only put that trend on a higher pedestal moving forward.

The researching team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has successfully discovered a new method to strengthen a key material used in the aerospace domain, as well as in energy generation. According to certain reports, the method keeps an Inconel 718, “superalloy,” or metal capable of withstanding extreme conditions, at the heart of everything. In practice, the researchers took this material and combined it with a small amount of ceramic nanowires, a move which instantly triggered “homogeneous decoration of nano-ceramics on the surfaces of Inconel particles” Next up, the resulting powder was then put to use for creating particular parts through a a form of 3D printing called laser powered bed fusion. Here, the researchers printed relatively thinner powder layers and exposed each layer to a specialized later. By doing so, they were able to melt the whole thing into a specific pattern. Once the melting was done, they repeated the process i.e. placing another layer on top and then melting it just like the previous one. Such a methodology, all in all, has the potential to simplify the production of those highly-complicated 3D parts. Not just that, extensive tests on the technology revealed how parts made this way with their new powder have significantly less porosity and fewer cracks than parts made of Inconel 718 alone. In case the value proposition is still not attractive enough for you, then it must be mentioned that the approach, considering “it works with existing 3D printing machines,” is also quite financially feasible.

“There is always a significant need for the development of more capable materials for extreme environments. We believe that this method has great potential for other materials in the future,” said Ju Li, the Battelle Energy Alliance Professor in Nuclear Engineering and a professor in MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE).

The enormous potential in play here is further validated by one feature, which talks to the fact that “cooling rate of ultrathin 3D-printed layers of metal alloys is much faster than the rate for bulk parts created using conventional melt-solidification processes” This, in simpler terms, would mean “many of the rules on chemical composition that apply to bulk casting don’t seem to apply to this kind of 3D printing.” Hence, we can safely say there is a much larger composition space to explore for the base metal with ceramic additions.

The precision and scalability that comes with 3D printing has opened up a world of new possibilities for materials design. Our results here are an exciting early step in a process that will surely have a major impact on design for nuclear, aerospace, and all energy generation in the future,” said Alexander O’Brien, one of the study’s lead authors.

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