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Applications for Gradient Metal Alloys Fabricated Using Additive ManufacturingRecently, additive manufacturing (AM) techniques have been developed that may shift the paradigm of traditional metal production by allowing complex net-shaped hardware to be built up layer-by-layer, rather than being machined from a billet. The AM process is ubiquitous with polymers due to their low melting temperatures, fast curing, and controllable viscosity, and 3D printers are widely available as commercial or consumer products. 3D printing with metals is inherently more complicated than with polymers due to their higher melting temperatures and reactivity with air, particularly when heated or molten. The process generally requires a high-power laser or other focused heat source, like an electron beam, for precise melting and deposition. Several promising metal AM techniques have been developed, including laser deposition (also called laser engineered net shaping or LENS® and laser deposition technology (LDT)), direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), and electron beam free-form (EBF). These machines typically use powders or wire feedstock that are melted and deposited using a laser or electron beam. Complex net-shape parts have been widely demonstrated using these (and other) AM techniques and the process appears to be a promising alternative to machining in some cases. Rather than simply competing with traditional machining for cost and time savings, the true advantage of AM involves the fabrication of hardware that cannot be produced using other techniques. This could include parts with "blind" features (like foams or trusses), parts that are difficult to machine conventionally, or parts made from materials that do not exist in bulk forms. In this work, the inventors identify that several AM techniques can be used to develop metal parts that change composition from one location in the part to another, allowing for complete control over the mechanical or physical properties. This changes the paradigm for conventional metal fabrication, which relies on an assortment of "post-processing" methods to locally alter properties (such as coating, heat treating, work hardening, shot peening, etching, anodizing, among others). Building the final part in an additive process allows for the development of an entirely new class of metals, so-called "functionally graded metals" or "gradient alloys." By carefully blending feedstock materials with different properties in an AM process, hardware can be developed with properties that cannot be obtained using other techniques but with the added benefit of the net-shaped fabrication that AM allows.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Document Type
Other - NASA Tech Brief
Hofmann, Douglas C.
(California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Borgonia, John Paul C.
(California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Dillon, Robert P.
(California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Suh, Eric J.
(California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Mulder, jerry L.
(California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Gardner, Paul B.
(California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
March 24, 2014
Publication Date
October 1, 2013
Publication Information
Publication: NASA Tech Briefs, October 2013
Subject Category
Man/System Technology And Life Support
Report/Patent Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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