An international collaboration between France-based metal AM company AddUp Group and the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) seeks to further advance powder bed fusion 3D printing for the production of metal molds and tooling. The partners have signed a $2.7 million cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA).
In the world of tooling, additive manufacturing is gaining a prominent position, as manufacturers are gradually realizing the benefits the technology affords. As plastic 3D printing evolves, many are turning to the technology to produce on-demand parts like jigs or fixtures. Metal 3D printing, for its part, is increasingly being explored and adopted for the production of complex molds with integrated cooling channels and other features.
By working together and leveraging their respective resources and knowledge, AddUp and ORNL aim to push powder bed fusion AM forward for the purpose of producing metal molds for the tooling industry. Among the partners joint goals for the project are improving the deposition rate of the PBF process, exerting more control over the metallurgical process and managing the qualification of steel tooling components.
ORNL will bring its in depth knowledge of material properties and process parameters to the joint project, while AddUp will offer its expertise in industrial metal 3D printing. The bulk of the research project will be conducted at ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) in Knoxville, Tennessee, where the partners will aim to develop validated AM process parameters for printing metal molds and deepen the understanding of AM tool steels and their microstructural properties.
Another aspect of the research agreement will be to investigate how to overcome existing geometric constraints associated with metal AM (thin walls, overhangs, etc.) using complex cooling channels. Together, the partners will examine how cooling channels and complex structures can unlock applications for AM in the tooling sector.
Ultimately, the CRADA aims to facilitate the production of complex metal molds and die tooling using powder bed fusion AM while simultaneously reducing production times and optimizing performance.