Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have demonstrated an Additive Manufacturing (AM) method to control the structure and properties of metal components with a claimed precision that is unmatched by conventional manufacturing processes.
During a presentation at the Materials Science & Technology 2014 conference in Pittsburgh, USA, October 12-16, 2014, Ryan Dehoff, staff scientist and metal Additive Manufacturing lead at the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL, stated, “We can now control local material properties, which will change the future of how we engineer metallic components.”
“This new manufacturing method takes us from reactive design to proactive design. It will help us make parts that are stronger, lighter and function better for more energy-efficient transportation and energy production applications such as cars and wind turbines,” added Dehoff.
An ARCAM electron beam melting system (EBM) was used to demonstrate the method. By manipulating the process to precisely manage the solidification on a microscopic scale, the researchers demonstrated 3-dimensional control of the microstructure, or crystallographic texture, of a nickel-based part during formation.
Crystallographic texture plays an important role in determining a material’s physical and mechanical properties. Applications from microelectronics to high-temperature jet engine components rely on tailoring of crystallographic texture to achieve desired performance characteristics.
“We’re using well established metallurgical phenomena, but we’ve never been able to control the processes well enough to take advantage of them at this scale and at this level of detail,” stated Suresh Babu, University of Tennessee-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Advanced Manufacturing. “As a result of our work, designers can now specify location specific crystal structure orientations in a part.”
Other contributors to the research are ORNL’s Mike Kirka and Hassina Bilheux, University of California Berkeley’s Anton Tremsin, and Texas A&M University’s William Sames.