3D Printing Amorphous Metals – 3D Printing

Heraeus and Trumpf have partnered to develop amorphous metal 3D printing technology. Also known as glassy metal and metallic glass, these materials exhibit mechanical properties that are superior to metals while also being lighter.

This technology will come as no surprise to those who have seen Star Trek IV, where Scotty trades the secrets to making transparent aluminum in exchange for some glass to make a giant whale tank. So many of the other sci-fi technologies in Star Trek have come to fruition: video calls, tablets, replicators, why not transparent Aluminum? Actually, the amorphous alloys they’re initially working with are based on Zirconium, Copper, Titanium, and Platinum, but I’m sure they’ll get around to Aluminum.

3D printing of amorphous components in industry is still in its infancy. This new collaboration will help us speed up printing processes and improve surface quality, ultimately cutting costs for customers. This will make the technology more suitable for a wider range of applications, some of which will be completely new. Jürgen Wachter, head of the Heraeus Amloy business unit

What Makes a Metal Amorphous?

A defining trait of metal is its crystalline atomic structure. That crystalline structure causes lattices to form, and defects in the lattices make metals weaker and more prone to corrosion. By rapidly/undercooling metals from a molten state, their atomic structures become frozen in an amorphous configuration like that of glass. That’s why they’re called glassy metals. The amorphous atomic structure imparts several benefits, including:

  • – Isotropic mechanical properties, meaning it’s just as strong in every direction
  • – Low density
  • – Yield strength two times higher than steel
  • – High wear and abrasion resistance that’s similar to ceramic
  • – High magnetic permeability and easy to magnetize and demagnetize
  • – Biocompatible
  • – High corrosion resistance
  • – Elastic and springy

Those characteristics make amorphous metals highly desirable in a number of sectors, such as the automotive manufacturing, medical, aerospace, and consumer electronics industries. This technology could improve everything from prosthetic implants to micro springs to phone cases to jet fuel nozzles. “Amorphous metals hold potential for numerous industries. For example, they can be used in medical devices — one of the most important industries for additive manufacturing,” said Klaus Parey, Managing Director of Trumpf Additive Manufacturing.

Trumpf has an extensive line of industrial-grade laser metal fusion and laser metal deposition 3D printers so they’re an ideal partner for this development project and their TruPrint 2000 machine will be used throughout the research phase. For further reading about amorphous metals, please visit this Heraeus AMLOY page.

Featured image credit: Heraeus

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