Heraeus AMLOY, a specialist in amorphous metals, has partnered with machine manufacturing company TRUMPF to advance the 3D printing of amorphous metals. The group of materials, also known as metallic glasses, demonstrate exceptional strength (twice as strong as steel) but with less weight and more elasticity. Through their collaboration, the companies aim to establish additive manufacturing as a standard production process for amorphous metals.
Beyond their excellent strength, amorphous metals also have isotropic behaviour, which means that their properties are consistent in every direction. The ability to 3D print metallic glasses could enable new opportunities for the materials because of increased design freedom. Heraeus and TRUMPF emphasize that 3D printed amorphous metals could be used in the aerospace and mechanical engineering sectors because of their lightweight and high strength properties, as well as in medical, because they are biocompatible.
“3D printing of amorphous components in industry is still in its infancy,” said Jürgen Wachter, Head of the Heraeus AMLOY business unit. “This new collaboration will help us speed up printing processes and improve surface quality, ultimately cutting costs for customers. This will make the technology more suitable for a wider range of applications, some of which will be completely new.”
Just over a year ago, Heraeus demonstrated the potential of 3D printed amorphous metals by printing the largest metallic glass part, a gear wheel made using an SLM system. Using traditional processes, the production of large-scale parts has been a challenge using metallic glasses, because the materials are formed by cooling molten metal extremely quickly. According to the partners, 3D printing could actually break down barriers by enabling the production of larger, more complex parts. AM and amorphous metals also complement each other in regards to lightweighting. Because the materials are quite lightweight by nature and additive manufacturing has the ability to produce complex geometries with reduced weight, amorphous metal components could result in even greater weight reductions compared to other materials.
“Amorphous metals hold potential for numerous industries,” added Klaus Parey, Managing Director of TRUMPF Additive Manufacturing. “For example, they can be used in medical devices – one of the most important industries for additive manufacturing. That’s why we believe this collaboration is such a great opportunity to make even more inroads into this key market with our industrial 3D printing systems.”
The partnership between Heraeus AMLOY and TRUMPF will see the companies combine their respective areas of expertise in metals and additive manufacturing. Heraeus AMLOY has already optimized its amorphous alloys for 3D printing and tailored them for use with TRUMPF’s TruPrint technology, particularly its TruPrint 2000 system. The metal AM system prepares excess powder for the next build in an inert gas environment, which protects the particles from any external influences, like oxygen. This is well suited to working with amorphous metals, because they react quickly with oxygen.
The companies have also revealed that customers using a TRUMPF AM system can now print zirconium-based alloys from Heraeus AMLOY. Other interested parties can order 3D printed amorphous metal parts directly from Heraeus AMLOY. Heraeus is also at the forefront of developing refractory metals for additive manufacturing, an innovative area which can be learned about in more depth in 3dpbm’s latest AM Focus eBook.