NASA publishes study on air-sinterable aluminium-tin ink for use on International Space Station

July 3, 2019

July 3, 2019

NASA publishes study on air-sinterable aluminium-tin ink for use on International Space Station

Aluminium-tin ink samples produced and sintered as part of the study (Courtesy NASA)


NASA has published a technical report on the generation of an aluminium-tin ink that can be sintered in air and exhibits properties near that of a solid aluminium-tin alloy. Authored by Z S Courtright, of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama, USA, and C W Hill, Jacobs Engineering and Science Services and Skills Augmentation Group, Huntsville, Alabama, USA, the study investigates the optimisation of the ink and its potential future use on the International Space Station.

Powder-based Additive Manufacturing processes, such as Laser Powder Bed Fusion (L-PBF), cannot be used in outer space due to the need for metal powders which would diffuse into the atmosphere in a zero-gravity environment. The researches state that metallic ink AM is a potential solution to this problem.

The study looks at work being done on a project focused on developing an air-sinterable aluminium-tin ink, which does not require a vacuum or an inert gas-purged atmosphere to prevent the oxidation of the aluminium. Once a potential ink composition has been determined, the optimal ink thickness for homogeneous sintering must be determined by additional experimentation, by sintering small disks and thin layers of ink. It will then be studied in an nScrypt multi-material Additive Manufacturing system at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in future experiments.

If successful, the aluminium-tin ink developed by the researchers will be suitable for use on the International Space Station for the production of replacement parts. Along with its suitability for zero-gravity manufacturing environments, the ink may also have applications on Earth due to its ability to be extruded on a substrate with precise ceramic tips, allowing for the fabrication of precise, complex shapes at much faster speeds than possible with more widely-used powder bed AM processes.

July 3, 2019

In the latest issue of Metal AM magazine

Download PDF

Extensive AM industry news coverage, as well as the following exclusive deep-dive articles:

  • Metal powders in Additive Manufacturing: An exploration of sustainable production, usage and recycling
  • Inside Wayland Additive: How innovation in electron beam PBF is opening new markets for AM
  • An end-to-end production case study: Leveraging data-driven machine learning and autonomous process control in AM
  • Consolidation, competition, and the cost of certification: Insight from New York’s AM Strategies 2024
  • Scandium’s impact on the Additive Manufacturing of aluminium alloys
  • AM for medical implants: An analysis of the impact of powder reuse in Powder Bed Fusion

The world of metal AM to your inbox

Don't miss any new issue of Metal AM magazine, and get the latest industry news. Sign up to our twice weekly newsletter.

Sign up

Discover our magazine archive…

The free to access Metal Additive Manufacturing magazine archive offers unparalleled insight into the world of metal Additive Manufacturing from a commercial and technological perspective through:

  • Reports on visits to leading metal AM part manufacturers and industry suppliers
  • Articles on technology and application trends
  • Information on materials developments
  • Reviews of key technical presentations from the international conference circuit
  • International industry news

All past issues are available to download as free PDFs or view in your browser.

Browse the archive

Looking for AM machines, metal powders or part manufacturing services?

Discover suppliers of these and more in our comprehensive advertisers’ index and buyer’s guide, available in the back of Metal AM magazine.

  • AM machines
  • Process monitoring & calibration
  • Heat treatment & sintering
  • HIP systems & services
  • Pre- & post-processing technology
  • Powders, powder production and analysis
  • Part manufacturers
  • Consulting, training & market data
View online
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap