Heraeus makes the complex design of amorphous metals possible for the first time through additive manufacturing

Hanau, November 9, 2016

  • Formnext in Frankfurt: Heraeus expands its portfolio of high-melting-point high-tech materials for 3D printing
  • Amorphous metals encourage a variety of new applications and designs

Heraeus will demonstrate additive manufacturing with amorphous metals for the first time at the Formnext international exhibition in Frankfurt (November 15-18, Hall 3.1/C20). Amorphous metals are an innovative class of materials that make completely new high-tech applications possible. In addition, the technology group is expanding its portfolio of high-melting-point high-tech materials for 3D printing by introducing twelve new high-quality metal powders with improved flow properties. Tungsten and gold are among the elements included in the newly developed metal powders and special alloys. "Thanks to additive manufacturing, bulk amorphous metals with new design possibilities will for the first time be broadly accessible to a mass market – not only in their long-awaited use as a structural material, but also in the near net shape manufacturing of high-strength components with complex geometries and sophisticated designs," explains Tobias Caspari, head of 3D Printing at Heraeus.

In this way, Heraeus is making the complex design of amorphous metals possible for the first time. Through a technology partnership with the Swedish firm Exmet, agreed upon in June 2016, Heraeus has expanded its portfolio of 3D printed metals with this highly sought-after group of materials. Amorphous metals are suitable for an exceptional number of high-tech applications. They are shock-absorbing and scratch-proof, while still having very good elastic properties – making them an attractive option for injectiors, casings for consumer electronics, and dome tweeters for speakers. (See infographic)

3D printing gives users new design freedom

3D printing is everywhere. The medical, automotive, and aerospace industries need new metal materials for making structural and functional components that are resistant to high temperatures. Tobias Caspari is convinced: "In 2020, precisely tailored applications will determine the spread of additive manufacturing. Even today, it is apparent that users are increasingly ready to free themselves from the constraints of traditional manufacturing. Rather than simply reconstructing a previously used form, they are intentionally utilizing the design freedom that additive manufacturing offers. This allows for entirely new geometries, as overhangs, undercuts, and hollows can be created without tools."

The Hanau technology group has been developing sophisticated metal powders and the related processes for 3D printing since 2015. "A market with great potential, but far from 'plug & play.' The challenges of 3D printing begin with manufacturing the powder. Expertise in materials and processes is crucial, because the metal powder and the printing process must be individually matched with the desired component," says Tobias Caspari. The applications already range from lightweight bearing covers made from hardenable cast aluminum alloys and used by race cars in the student engineering competition Formula Student, to the resource-saving manufacture of satellite thruster nozzles from platinum alloys.

Information box: Additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing is a technology that produces three-dimensional parts layer by layer from metals, polymers, or special materials. The use of additive methods such as selective laser melting to produce components from amorphous metal alloys opens up new possibilities for users. In what are known as powder-bed systems, layers of a powder (typically 20–50 micrometers thick) are applied to the substrate plate, and the cross-section of the component to be produced is melted by laser or electron beam and fused to the underlying structural layers. In this way, extremely complex structures can be manufactured layer by layer from a wide variety of materials.

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