San Diego State University studies anisotropic microstructures of Binder Jetting with InnoventX

June 6, 2024

June 6, 2024

For the start of the project, the lab is processing established stainless steel materials into simple products to best allow the process itself to be studied (Courtesy San Diego State University)
For the start of the project, the lab is processing established stainless steel materials into simple products to best allow the process itself to be studied (Courtesy San Diego State University)

San Diego State University (SDSU), California, USA, recently invested in an InnoventX Additive Manufacturing machine from Desktop Metal, Burlington, Massachusetts, for the theoretical study of the Binder Jetting (BJT) process and the anisotropic microstructure of the resulting builds and how that structure changes during sintering.

Directed by Dr Eugene Olevsky and Dr. Elisa Torresani, The Powder Technology Laboratory (PTL) at SDSU is a world-leading centre in sintering research. Projects at the lab explore fundamental understandings on sintering assisted Additive Manufacturing as researchers conduct experimentation and simulation on novel alloys with cutting-edge technologies.

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Runjian Jiang, a PhD student in the University of California and San Diego State University joint doctoral programme in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering and a PTL researcher at the College of Engineering, focuses on Additive Manufacturing, especially the Binder Jetting of metal and alloy materials. As a theoretical researcher, Jiang is focused on the process itself and studying the anisotropic properties of the material at different stages of the workflow.

During the BJT process, liquid binder is deposited onto the powder bed layer-by-layer to build complex geometries. Unlike Laser or Electron Beam Powder Bed Fusion (PBF-LB and PBF-EB) processes that introduce heat to fuse the powder during the build, Binder Jetting simply ‘glues’ the particles together before final densification in a sintering furnace. Because this is done without an energy source such as a laser melting the shape together, Binder Jetting produces parts with anisotropic properties. This is particularly important in industries where strength and consistency are critical, such as the aerospace, automotive, and medical sectors.

“We want to understand how a part is reconstructed as a 3D structure because it’s anisotropic during the Binder Jetting process and it’s changed during sintering,” Jiang stated.

Using Computed Tomography (CT) scanning, Jiang investigates the porosity as well as the porosity distribution from different angles.

“And then we get more detailed, more specific, and investigate more details like how particles are orientated with each other, packed together,” he explained.

Easy-to-produce precision results

Installed in 2024, the InnoventX at the Powder Technology Laboratory was upgraded with an ultrasonic recoater capable of working with a wider range of powders and simplifies powder change over.

For the start of the project, the lab is reportedly processing the most established stainless steel materials into simple products to best allow the process itself to be studied.

The team starts with the provided base parameters and Jiang stated that it takes minimal trial and error to get the desired outcome. “It’s easy to correlate the process parameters with the final results,” Jiang said.

Otherwise, adopting the Binder Jetting workflow was reportedly easy for the facility. Jiang explained that he constructs and uploads the STL file, then follows the step-by-step instructions that create a standard procedure. “After I start a build, I might stand there and check for a while but then I can leave it. It’s all automatic, that’s the thing I love about it.

“With the InnoventX I can print a sample less than one millimeter, and that’s very important for me,” Jiang added. “I need to scan the 3D structure of the samples with the x-ray CT, so I need very small samples, the smaller the better, and the Desktop Metal Binder Jetting machine can give me this good result.”

Jiang anticipates that the fundamentally understanding the capabilities of Binder Jetting Additive Manufacturing could lead to innovations in material science and engineering that impact applications in various industries. And as a flexible technology with the ability to process metals, composites, and ceramics, Jiang also reportedly sees a future with the InnoventX that could include studies on more functional and structural materials.

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June 6, 2024

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