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Innovation in Alloy AND Form
Posted on April 11th, 2016 by Ken Klapproth in New Materials & Applications
Alcoa is helping Airbus take to the skies, transforming powdered titanium to aerospace parts using 3DP.
Proving once again that there is just as much innovation in the realization of a new design as in the design itself, investments in alloy development, powder production, and aerospace manufacturing have helped Alcoa secure a $1-Billion supply deal with Airbus. Alcoa’s process combines additive manufacturing – or 3D-printing – of titanium with traditional manufacturing techniques like hot isostatic pressing (HIP) to produce parts with superior strength and hardness. Perfected through research and development, Alcoa calls their process Ampliforge(TM) stating it enhances the properties of 3D-printed parts compared to those produced using traditional additive manufacturing processes.
For any material advancement, the “how” is just as important as the “what”. It’s not enough to formulate the “what” – a new titanium alloy in this case – if you don’t have a repeatable and scalable way to using it in manufacturing – the “how”. Using the HIP process, Alcoa was able to overcome the strength issues resulting from laser sintering powdered titanium to yield parts capable of structural applications.
While you may be familiar with the extruded plastic process used in commercially available 3D printers, the process used with metals requires a different approach. The following YouTube video provides a good illustration of the overall technique and the issues introduced because of the process:
Additive manufacturing has provided the capability to produce configurations impossible with traditional subtractive techniques. As companies like Alcoa continue to invest and innovate in overcoming the limitations imposed by the new processes, engineers can continue to push beyond the performance limits of current designs. Combining the advantages of design flexibility, rapid production times, and low tooling costs of 3D-printing with forging techniques delivering structural capabilities of formed or machined parts, technical professional are free to apply unconventional knowledge for revolutionary effect. Exciting stuff.
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