Powder production and classification technology company Indutherm, Walzbachtal, Germany, has reported on its involvement in research projects relating to lightweighting and innovative steel alloys for laser-based metal Additive Manufacturing. The company states that it is currently a participant on several research projects, including Laser Additive Production of High-Strength Aluminium Structures (LHASA ZIM) and StahlVarianz (StaVari) in Germany and the Transatlantic Cluster for Lightweight (TraCLight), a collaboration between German and North American companies and R&D centres.
New aluminium alloys for metal Additive Manufacturing
The lightweighting of metal AM parts in automotive and aerospace applications offers significant opportunities; however, according to Indutherm, the availability of suitable metal powders for laser-based Additive Manufacturing can mean that components which would benefit from the technology can’t be manufactured in this way. Many aluminium alloys suitable for this type of AM, such as A1Si12 and AlSi10Mg, do not have the required strength and hardness for automotive and aerospace applications.
LHAZA ZIM is a network project aimed at the development and qualification of new aluminium alloy powders for the laser-based metal Additive Manufacturing of high-strength components, such as brake discs and spring plates for motors.
In its role in the project, Indutherm is focused on developing an explosion-proof powder atomising system for aluminium alloy powders. While the company’s existing systems are suitable for a wide range of alloys (based on Cu, Fe, Co, Ni, Pd, etc), highly reactive metals and alloys impose new requirements on the design of spraying systems.
According to Indutherm, the key to developing a new, safer gas atomisation plant is to anticipate the behaviours of new alloys during atomisation and use these assumptions as the starting point for the new design. At present, a pilot plant is being put into operation at the University of Bremen, Germany, allowing initial validation tests and process development.
Innovative steel alloys for metal Additive Manufacturing
StaVari is sponsored by the German Ministry of Education and Research and relates to the development of continuous process chains for the laser-based Additive Manufacturing of complex, varied and highly functional products using innovative steel materials. In its role, Indutherm is primarily concerned with the development and testing of plant and process technology for powder atomisation that meets most of the requirements imposed on alloys and their applications.
An additional aim of Indutherm’s research is to increase the output of metal powders suitable for use with laser-based Additive Manufacturing systems and to avoid satellite formation. The research includes the melting, atomisation and characterisation of alloy variants to establish process parameters.
According to Indutherm, the in-house engineering and production capabilities it offers make it a preferred partner for research projects focusing on technical feasibility and practical use. Because the company’s R&D team has years of collaborative research experience, it is able to provide a rapid response to new conclusions and the modification of prototypes and individual components.
Having recently joined TraCLight, the company states that it now hopes to form new transatlantic partnerships, gaining access to the world’s largest research institutes for lightweighting technologies.