The BEAMIT Group, Fornovo di Taro, Italy, has developed an Additive Manufacturing process for using Al2024 RAM2C aluminium alloy. The ultralight aluminium alloy is reported to perform well at high temperatures, making it ideal for applications in the motorsport, automotive and aeronautical sectors.
The development was in response to increasing demand for aluminium alloys that combine the ability to maintain high-performance levels, irrespective of the temperature, with extremely light weights. The first step of the project was in collaboration with US-based Elementum 3D, with BEAMIT choosing to print with Elementum 3D’s Al2024-RAM2C material, a 2000 series aluminium alloy composition modified with their patented RAM additions.
“Our priority is to offer customers advanced materials and processes so they can transfer these innovations directly and effortlessly to their products,” stated Mauro Antolotti, president of the BEAMIT Group. “This continually evolving advancement is an integral part of our group’s long-term strategies and supported by a strong, well-organised team focused on achieving even more competitive results.”
The 2024 RAM2C aluminium alloy is reputed to perform better at both room and high temperatures than other alloys currently in use; it is also very tough and lightweight, characteristics that make it well suited for applications in the motorsport and automotive sectors in components like the suspension, parts of the chassis and structural parts of the powertrain. As processed with conventional technologies, the alloy is also commonly used for the structural parts of aircrafts; the switch to AM processing here would reportedly bring down energy consumption and costs.
Until now, 2000 series aluminium alloys, including 2024, were known for their inability to be processed via Additive Manufacturing due to their composition: the elements in alloys (such as copper, zinc and magnesium) solidify at completely different temperatures, making it difficult to melt them with a laser to create solid elements.
After processing, aluminium alloys need to be subjected to heat treatments to achieve maximum levels of mechanical performance, as varying heat treatments can affect how the material performs. A custom cycle was built for the 2024 RAM2C alloy to achieve the best properties. The R&D team developing these solutions also developed different post-processes, enabling customers to have modular solutions with customised properties.
Alessandro Rizzi, BEAMIT Group Material and Special Processes Manager, clarified, “It is very difficult to process 2000 series aluminium alloys via L-PBF [Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion], so developing this material really motivated us. Furthermore, the role of heat treatments became fundamentally important for Al2024 RAM2C and enabled us to experiment different ones to find repeatable stable processes and guarantee maximum performance, including in-air and HIP-Q treatments.”
The BEAMIT Group is now working on parameterising the high-pressure heat treatment process in collaboration with its subsidiary post-production processes provider PRES-X.
For more background on the BEAMIT Group, read ‘Mauro Antolotti and BEAMIT: The Story of Italy’s leading AM parts producer and its founder’s view on the industry’ lead article in the Spring 2021 issue of Metal AM magazine.