Product Managers and Designers alike are aware of many Additive Manufacturing advantages including lowering costs, efficient use of material, complexity-friendliness, and production of whole assemblies at once. Another, less discussed, end product advantage of 3D printing is strength: emanating from structural possibilities, special material availability, and production techniques. Here are 7 strong and mighty examples.
Force of Nature
Zak Eckel and Dr. Chaoyin Zhou from HRL invented a new 3D printable ceramic material, that is able to withstand high temperatures, and has ten times the strength of similar ceramic materials (below). The material starts out as a resin that is 3D printed using stereolithography. It is then fired to remove the polymer within it which creates a unique, strong molecular structure in the end product. The result is a dense, non-porous, heat resistant (above 1700ºC), and strong ceramic part (video). The high performance of this new process can be applied to various scales of parts, from jet engines to intricate electronic devices.
Total Travel Experience
AirBus and GE have been using 3D printed parts for years now. GE’s 3D printed fuel nozzle is 25% lighter, up to 5 times more durable than its predecessor and GE Aviation plans to additively manufacture 100,000 fuel nozzles by 2020. Meanwhile, Airbus has been 3D printing parts in plastic, titanium, stainless steel, and aluminum for the Airbus A350 fleet. Rolls-Royce is also using additive manufacturing in its production: the company is well known for its customization through its bespoke program, which fits well with 3D printing. Additive manufacturing also allows the company to take it to the next level with 3D printed panels, creating custom bodies. The Vision 100 concept car (below) represents a look into how the future buyers could customize their vehicle. As an aside, the Vision 100 only has a back seat – the chauffeur is automated.
Calling for Reinforcements
3D printed industrial products are produced today in a range of materials including metal alloys and plastics. Markforged has created a new 3D printing process that infuses and reinforces nylon materials with various fibers such as Kevlar, Fiberglass, and Carbon (above and up top). The reinforcement is meant to enable the production of 3D printed parts at the price of plastic but with the strength of metal – 24x stronger than ABS parts. The technology, called CFF (Continuous Filament Fabrication), is a variant of FDM with a second nozzle combining a continuous strand of fiber in the layers.
Markforged also developed the Onyx, which combines micro-carbon fibers in the filament to achieve a tougher, stiffer, more heat tolerant, and more dimensionally stable filament than ABS (black socket panel above, for example).
Missouri University of Science and Technology researchers are developing new metal materials that are stronger and lighter than conventional ones yet are less expensive and more efficient to manufacture with. The manufacturing technology includes 3D printing technology, sensor network, and seamless process integration, resulting in Structural Amorphous Metals (SAMs). 3D printed amorphous metal has no molecular pattern meaning it resists breaking – as the size of the grain decreases the strength of the metal material increases.
Another metal option is NanoSteel’s nano-structured steel materials – metal powders designed for binder jet 3D printing processes (such as below). These materials, enable 3D printing of components for highly abrasive environments.
The Power of Structure
Recent TU Delft Architectural Engineering graduate, Bayu Prayudhi, developed 3D printed steel knots as part of a free-form grid shell structure (below). The Knot, 3D printed by binder jetting in stainless steel powder with bronze powder, is designed to support structural loads as well as an optimized production process (you can see it in action in this video).
Type A Machines are improving the functionality of the internal structure of 3D printed parts (crosscut below). The internal structure of an object is especially important in determining its strength. The new method creates a 3D isotropic structure throughout the object, providing equal strength in all directions, and consistent performance of the 3D printed object.
More examples of how 3D printed structures can be topologically optimized for better weight to strength ratio here.
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