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3D printing, quasicrystals yield lighter yet stronger mat'ls

Posted: 02 Dec 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:University of Lorraine? quasicrystal? 3D printing? additive manufacturing?

3D printing is presently being used in automotive, aerospace and machinery industries to create various parts. As a relatively new process, it holds the potential to create manufacturing components that offer stronger functional properties, of course, with the help of innovative adaptable materials.

A group of researchers at the University of Lorraine in France said quasicrystals, a type of complex metal alloy with crystal-like properties, can be useful in the design of novel composite materials for this purpose. In their latest study, Samuel Kenzari and co-authors summarised recent developments related to the use of complex metal alloys in additive manufacturing.

Additive manufacturing, commonly thought of as 3D printing, is a process that involves the manufacture of components from a digital model. Traditional manufacturing methods often start with an object and remove material from it in order to obtain the final component. In additive manufacturing, lasers are used to build layers based on a digital model, ultimately resulting in the final component.

Additive manufacturing methods are becoming widespread and affect many industries. But the range of materials used is still restricted despite a real demand for manufacturing lighter parts with better functional properties. Incorporating complex metal alloys (CMAs) such as quasicrystals in the design of new composite materials can help meet this demand.

CMAs are promising because of their potentially useful properties such as low friction, relatively good corrosion resistance and good resistance to wear. They are also, however, intrinsically brittle, preventing their use as bulk materials. Scientists, according to the University of Lorraine team of researchers, have found alternatives to circumvent this problem. One is to use CMAs as reinforcement particles. The other is to use them as a coating material.

CMAs have been used together with metals to develop lightweight composites that can be used in building 3D parts. These parts have mechanical properties similar to those of steel-brass composites being used in the industry but with the advantage of having a lower density.

"Automotive and aeronautics industries are happy to have functional parts with a lower density," noted one of co-authors, Fournee Vincent, a professor at the university. "Reducing the weight of vehicles reduces fuel consumption."

Quasicrystals have also been used to reinforce polymer matrix composites used in 3D printing technologies. These composites present several advantages compared to other materials with regard to friction, wear and sealing.

Functional parts using both kinds of alloys are presently being commercialised. Pipes and intake manifolds used in fluidic applications surrounding car engines are a good example.

As of the present, the researchers are working on the development of functional parts made using CMAs that have health applications.

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