3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing Will Grow in 2017: New and Better Materials: Page 2 of 4

In 2017, materials for 3D printing and additive manufacturing (AM) will be getting better and more closely fine-tuned for higher-quality and larger end-production parts.

analyzed by documented procedures. The Data Management Committee will also coordinate with the SAE's MMPDS Emerging Technology Working Group for new metallic materials and CMH-17 for new polymer composite materials.

Metals, Metals, and More Metals

As we've heard many times from pundits and engineers alike, metals technologies, plus the shift to end-production parts, are the future of industrial and commercial 3D printing and AM. The recent IdTechEx report says metals printer sales are growing at 48% and material sales are growing at 32%, in a wide variety of industries.

The report covers selective laser melting (SLM), electron beam melting (EBM), blown powder, metal + binder, welding, and some emerging technologies, using a wide range of alloys: aluminum, cobalt alloys, nickel alloys, steels, nitinol, titanium alloys, gold, platinum, palladium, silver, copper, bronze, and tungsten. Because of the heavy emphasis on aerospace and medical applications, which have led metals AM, the titanium alloys used by both have a 31% market share by volume. The aerospace industry is also heavily investing in cobalt, nickel, and aluminum alloys.

A more targeted study by Absolute Reports , looking only at SLM and EBM, predicts a growth rate of 26.86% by 2021, and reports that in Europe metals AM tech grew by 54.92% from 2011 to 2016.

One of the biggest influences on powder metals is now the rise of AM, as we reported recently . Most leading metal powder makers are developing powders for additive, although there are only about 15 commercially available, and most installations producing parts with metals AM are doing short runs of 100 units or less.

Since metal powders used for 3D printing durable, high-quality aerospace parts are available in only limited quantities, aluminum leader Alcoa opened a new plant specifically to produce 3D printing metal powders at its Pittsburgh, Penn. Alcoa Technical Center. There it's developing proprietary titanium, nickel, and aluminum powders optimized for 3D printing aerospace parts. The facility is now part of Arconic after the recent separation from Alcoa's traditional commodity business.

Much recent activity has also been aimed at producing better metal powders. The main problem is that many metal alloys produced into powders for use in AM were not designed for that environment, but for casting. So many materials makers are redesigning them from the ground up for 3D printing. NanoSteel, for example, is designing metal powders specifically for the fast-cooling environment of AM, not just translating them from powders originally designed for casting.

The availability of new metal powders developed specifically for 3D printing will continue and expand in 2017. Also expect continual work to understand and verify the microstructures of 3D printed parts, especially metal ones.

For example, at Carnegie Mellon University's leading NextManufacturing Center for AM, researchers have used synchrotron-based x-ray microtomography to make detailed images of 3D-printed titanium parts, to help characterize materials and improve the parts' internal structure.

Previous research found that most tensile properties of 3D-printed titanium components made with Ti-6Al-4V alloy on an EBM machine met or exceeded conventional manufacturing standards. But because of excessive porosity, the fatigue properties of parts

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