- R&D 100 Awards
Alternative Additive Manufactured Metals in Nano-Structure Exhibiting Ultra High Strengths is a family of processes in which parts are first modeled into a CAD program that slices them into thin layers. Parts are then built-up layer by layer in specialized machines according to the pattern in the program. For metals the machines build up the layers by injecting metal powder or wire into a high temperature plasma, laser beam or electron beam where the injected feed is melted/fused into a small/mini pool that builds the layer; or by laser sintering a metal powder onto a substrate or previously built layer. Metal additive manufacturing is emerging as a disruptive technology that potentially will reshape the future of American manufacturing. A general barrier to entry for metal additive manufacturing (AM) parts has been the machine size for AM fabrication being too small to fabricate part sizes for most commercial applications. Aerospace, defense, commercial and nuclear applications often require parts in excess of meters in any direction and thickness that can vary from a millimeter to hundreds of millimeters. The laser sintering of metal powders has been restricted to very small sizes of only tens of millimeters in any direction. The processing of a laser beam melting a pool from a powder feed has very high capital cost, limited build rate of only a few pounds/hr., high operator and maintenance cost, and has been limited to relatively small sizes that can be produced.