Within a year, Heraeus has nearly doubled its portfolio of special alloys and high-value metals to about 20 new high-quality metal powders with improved flowability. At Formnext, the international trade fair in Frankfurt (November 14 to 17, Hall 3.1/C38), the technology group will be exhibiting new industrial applications for valuable metals and alloys in additive manufacturing. The portfolio includes amorphous metals (metallic glasses), precious metals (sterling silver, red gold, and iridium), refractory metals with high melting points such as molybdenum, niobium, and tantalum, and a wide variety of metal alloys. The preparation of refractory metals for additive manufacturing, in particular, is completely new territory for metal-printing technology, because these materials require such high temperatures (up to 2500° C) that, from a purely physical standpoint, only a few companies can work with them at all. Heraeus develops, supplies, and qualifies appropriate powders for layer-by-layer construction of components for industrial manufacturing. Materials and process expertise are crucial in this regard, as the metal powders and printing process must be perfectly aligned.
Heraeus also makes it possible to create complex shapes from amorphous metals. Also known as metallic glasses, this innovative class of materials is suitable for an unusually large number of high-tech applications. Amorphous metals are shock-absorbing and scratch-proof while still having very good spring characteristics—making them attractive for injection nozzle diaphragms, cases for consumer electronics, and dome tweeters for speakers, among other things.
Broad variety of industrial applications for metallic powders
The diverse applications range from lightweight end plates for Formula Student race cars, additively manufactured from heat-treatable cast aluminum alloys, to the resource-conserving production of platinum-alloy control nozzles for satellites. Current Heraeus collaborations include the 3i Print Project, which demonstrates the full potential of industrial 3D printing for the automobile industry, through the example of the front-end structure of an old VW Caddy. In another project, with the Moog company, hydraulic control blocks for robot applications (such as salvage robots) are produced with additive manufacturing techniques. Heraeus supplied and qualified the high-strength aluminum alloy Scalmalloy® for the production of the components.
“In the marketing of high-quality powders, Heraeus focuses primarily on the aerospace, automobile, and medical technology industries, while also covering the area that we call ‘industrial applications,’” says Tobias Caspari, head of Heraeus Additive Manufacturing. “In the future, 3D printing will be the process of choice for many areas of technology. In the aerospace and automobile areas, additive manufacturing makes weight savings possible that are not achievable through traditional manufacturing. It is possible to manufacture much lighter and yet stable functional parts with completely new design possibilities. At the same time, we are conserving resources and can recycle excess powder.” Heraeus is one of the world’s leading companies in the recycling of precious metals in particular. By closely integrating trading, recycling, and production, Heraeus is able to offer its customers an uninterrupted material cycle. Only a few companies in the world have mastered this complex cycle in its entirety in the way that Heraeus has.