In 2017, materials for 3D printing and additive manufacturing (AM) will be getting better and more closely fine-tuned for higher-quality and larger end-production parts. At the same time, the types of materials available for 3D printing processes continue to widen, at the low, medium, and high ends. The expansion of engineering-grade materials is being helped along by multiple sources. These include standards bodies, government labs, consortia, and other groups, as well as more large materials companies like Solvay entering the fray. Another major source will be companies leveraging off of HP's Multi Jet Fusion ecosystem open materials market headed by products from Evonik and BASF.
Standards and Guidelines for Improving AM Materials
Making high-quality end-production parts with AM and 3D printing methods requires some carefully defined standards and guidelines for materials and printed parts, as well as machines and processes. This is especially true for metal parts, which continue to be the fastest-growing segment of commercial 3D printing, according to a recent study by IdTechEx . Several different types of organizations are getting into the act, beyond the well-known standards bodies, and these efforts will increase in 2017.
Alcoa's 3D printing metal powder production facility is located at its Technology Center, the world's largest light metals research center, now part of Arconic. There it's developing proprietary titanium, nickel, and aluminum powders optimized for 3D printing aerospace parts. (Source: Arconic)
In 2016, the creators of the free, searchable Senvol Database began issuing a new set of industrial AM and 3D printing tools for engineers wanting to use additive technology for end-production. The Senvol Indexes are datasets for AM material characterization, and the only source of commercially available data of this kind. The Indexes, like the Database, were developed without involvement from machine OEMs or material suppliers, to reduce the barriers of entry for companies interested in additive for end-production.
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For example, an Index detailing Arcam (AP&C) Ti6Al4V (45 - 106 microns) powder processed on the Arcam Q20 machine includes data such as material properties, process parameters, powder characteristics, and hot isostatic pressing (HIP) effects, gathered according to aerospace best practices. The Indexes were created to replace the duplicative efforts of aerospace companies doing their own material characterization. Since different industries use very similar materials -- for example, Ti6Al4V is also used in medical implants -- the dataset can be shared between aerospace and medical, and any other industry where engineers want to use this material on that specific printer.
Senvol president Annie Wang has been selected as vice chair of the Data Management Committee for the SAE AMS-AM Additive Manufacturing Committee, a technical committee in SAE's Aerospace Materials Systems Group. Her focus will be establishing a system to ensure that material specifications are controlled and traceable to statistically substantiated data that's been