The NanoSteel Company, Rhode Island, USA, a leader in nanostructured steel materials design, has announced the successful expansion of the company’s engineered powders business into Additive Manufacturing (AM). By leveraging its uniform metal matrix microstructures in the laser sintering process, the company states that it was able to build a crack-free, fully dense bulk sample.
NanoSteel’s initial focus in AM supports the market need for on-demand on-site wear parts while addressing the current challenges in 3D printing of high-hardness parts.
The process overcomes one of the major hurdles to achieving a high-hardness metallic part through Additive Manufacturing, namely the tendency to develop cracks during part builds. The company worked with a global process development partner to optimise processing of a proprietary NanoSteel alloy with a high volume fraction of borocarbide phases. This successfully produced a fully dense (99.9%) crack-free part with hardness values over 1000 HV, wear resistance comparable to conventionally manufactured M2 tool steels, and a uniform microstructure.
Importantly, states the company, these properties were achieved without the need for post-processing such as Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP) or further heat treatment, reducing production cost and lead times.
“Currently, the material options to produce highly wear-resistant parts through Additive Manufacturing are limited” stated Harald Lemke, NanoSteel’s General Manager of Engineered Powders. “By extending the reach of steel into markets currently served by WC-Co, ceramics, and other non-ferrous metal matrix metal composites, NanoSteel has the potential to generate cost-efficient wear parts to serve the tooling, mining, energy, and transportation industries in applications such as pumps, bearings, and cutting tools.”
NanoSteel is currently extending its technology into more complex geometries and broadening its property sets to fully validate the market potential for 3D-printed steel components.
Videos explaining the process can viewed on the NanoSteel website: