A Milestone to Transform Our 3D Printing Potential

Human beings surely have the knowhow to do a lot, but to tell you the truth; there is no piece of information in our arsenal more significant than the one that pushes to be better under all circumstances. This knowledge, in particular, has already enabled the world to clock some huge milestones, with technology emerging as quite 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 otherwise. Nevertheless, if we look beyond the surface for one hot 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, initiated a full-blown tech revolution. Of course, the next thing this revolution did was 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 University of Cambridge has successfully developed a new method for 3D printing metal, a method which carries the potential to reduce the long-associated costs and facilitate a better use of all the available resources. According to certain reports, the stated method makes it possible for structural modifications to be ‘programmed’ into metal alloys during 3D printing, thus fine-tuning their properties like the existing 3D printing methods haven’t been able to do. However, that’s not where the disadvantages end. You see, the current approach suffers from this inability to control the internal structure in a way that is required to conceive optimal results. Given the limitation, it becomes absolutely necessary to perform post-production alteration, a necessity which then goes on to beef up the overall costs mandated by the effort.

“There’s a lot of promise around 3D printing, but it’s still not in wide use in industry, mostly because of high production costs,” said Dr. Matteo Seita from the University of Cambridge’s Engineering Department, who led the research. “One of the main drivers of these costs is the amount of tweaking that materials need after production.”

The development in question, though, hands you much greater control over the internal structure of the material, considering laser is used to actually conduct the process. This, in turn, enables the operator to decide the way a particular material will be solidified after melting. Not just that, the methodology also lets you have power over the amount of heat which is to be generated during the process, thus contributing to an end product that comes decked up with all properties you needed in the first place.

“We’re trying to come up with ways to restore some of that structural engineering capability without the need for heating and beating, which would in turn help reduce costs. If you can control the properties you want in metals, you can leverage the greener aspects of 3D printing,” said Seita.

Talk about the incentives to 3D print metal, it allows an easier production of intricate shapes, and in case that doesn’t sound convincing enough, then we must mention how this method also requires  far less material than traditional metal manufacturing methods. Another detail worth a mention here is the fact that, although metals are consciously designed to be strong and tough for possible use across structural applications, 3D printed metals are inherently strong. With its advantages clear, the researchers only had to make tweak to overcome the limitation.

“We found that the laser can be used as a ‘microscopic hammer’ to harden the metal during 3D printing,” said Seita. “However, melting the metal a second time with the same laser relaxes the metal’s structure, allowing the structural reconfiguration to take place when the part is placed in the furnace.”

The result seemed to be a metal that was made from alternating regions of strong and tough material, making its performance comparable to stuff that has been made through heating and beating, a method which has stood the test of times for many years.

“We think this method could help reduce the costs of metal 3D printing, which could in turn improve the sustainability of the metal manufacturing industry,” said Seita. “In the near future, we also hope to be able to bypass the low temperature treatment in the furnace, further reducing the number of steps required before using 3D printed parts in engineering applications.”

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