Heraeus AMLOY, a division of Heraeus, Hanau, Germany, and Trumpf, Ditzingen, Germany, have joined together to collaborate on the Additive Manufacturing of amorphous metals, also known as metallic glasses. The aim of the collaboration is to establish the Additive Manufacturing of amorphous parts as a standard production method on the shop floor by improving process and cost efficiencies.
According to the companies, amorphous metals are twice as strong as steel, yet significantly lighter and more elastic. They exhibit isotropic behaviour, which means their material properties remain identical, regardless of the direction in which the AM machine builds up the workpiece.
Heraeus AMLOY and Trumpf believe that a number of areas could benefit from the Additive Manufacturing of amorphous metals, and key examples of this include parts that are subject to significant stresses, as well as where lightweight design is required, in sectors such as aerospace and mechanical engineering. These materials are also believed to be an excellent choice for medical devices due to their biocompatibility.
Combining the advantages of amorphous metals and Additive Manufacturing
Amorphous metals are formed by cooling molten metal extremely quickly. An Additive Manufacturing machine can then build them into larger, more complex parts – something that other methods are unable to do, according to the two companies.
This opens the door to new industrial applications for amorphous metals. Additive Manufacturing also exploits the considerable potential that amorphous metals hold for lightweight design, as an AM machine only builds structures that actually help a part fulfil its function, so material use and weight are kept to a minimum.
Amorphous metals are very light by nature, so the combination of Additve Manufacturing and amorphous metals can reduce weight in a range of applications. AM makes the production of amorphous parts faster and simpler in a wide range of contexts, and enables users to build parts in one piece instead of making components one-by-one and then assembling them into a finished part.
Tailoring amorphous alloys for Trumpf’s TruPrint machines
As part of this collaboration, Heraeus AMLOY will combine its expertise in the production and processing of amorphous metals with Trumpf’s experience in Additive Manufacturing. Heraeus AMLOY states that it has optimised its amorphous alloys for Additive Manufacturing and tailored the material for use with Trumpf’s TruPrint systems.
The latest-generation TruPrint 2000 machine is believed to be a particularly good choice for additively manufacturing amorphous metals, as the machine is designed to enable excess powder to be prepared in an inert gas environment for the subsequent build. This protects the powder from any adverse influences, which is a key for amorphous metals because they react so quickly with oxygen.
Customers that already have a Trumpf AM machine can now reportedly use it to process zirconium-based alloys from Heraeus AMLOY, and it is also possible to order additively manufactured amorphous parts directly from Heraeus. The two partners hope to make copper- and titanium-based alloys available for Additive Manufacturing in the future.
“3D printing of amorphous components in industry is still in its infancy,” stated Jürgen Wachter, Head of the Heraeus AMLOY business unit. “This new collaboration will help us speed up printing processes and improve surface quality, ultimately cutting costs for customers. This will make the technology more suitable for a wider range of applications, some of which will be completely new.”
Klaus Parey, Managing Director Trumpf Additive Manufacturing, commented, “Amorphous metals hold potential for numerous industries. For example, they can be used in medical devices – one of the most important industries for Additive Manufacturing. That’s why we believe this collaboration is such a great opportunity to make even more inroads into this key market with our industrial 3D printing systems.”