Figure 1. Unmodified “standard” 6061 aluminum alloy, after printing by laser powder bed fusion, shows large grains and an extensive network of intergranular cracking. The left-hand image is unetched. Graphic courtesy of Elementum 3D.

ERIE, Colo. — Elementum 3D, a developer and supplier of metal additive manufacturing (AM) materials, has been issued patents in the U.S., Canada, and Australia for its Reactive Additive Manufacturing (RAM) technology, the company said in a release.

The RAM process is reported to significantly expand the potential additive manufacturing materials library by enabling printing of previously unprintable materials. Through the process, Elementum 3D has introduced a family of new laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) printing materials with properties that are reportedly superior to those of previously available AM materials and corresponding wrought alloys.

Elementum 3D’s team creates advanced metal alloys, superalloys, and metal ceramic composites. The company uses RAM technology to create printable, high-performance alloy powders based on established wrought alloys, including aluminum 1000, 2024, 6061, 7050, and 7075.

Popular high-strength wrought aluminum alloys could not previously be printed because they suffer hot tearing (solidification cracking), resulting in parts with very poor mechanical properties. The RAM process forms sub-micron inoculants in the melt pool that nucleate aluminum grains to produce a fine equiaxed microstructure for good printability and exceptional performance, the company said.

An unmodified “standard” 6061 aluminum alloy is shown in Figure 1 after printing and polishing. The Figure 1 left-hand micrograph shows a low magnification image of the polished and unetched growth plane, with the large grain structure and the network of intergranular cracking clearly visible. The Figure 1 right-hand image shows a higher magnification micrograph of the same material, etched with Weck’s reagent and showing the cracking network.

Figure 2. Elementum 3D’s A6061-RAM2 aluminum alloy showing a crack-free microstructure with the darker phase comprising reinforcing particles and the very fine (1-2 µm) aluminum grains revealed after. Graphic courtesy of Elementum 3D.

The Elementum 3D A6061-RAM2 printed material is shown in Figure 2, with the left-hand image showing a crack-free microstructure with a dispersion of nucleating and reinforcing particulates. The right-hand Figure 2 image shows a higher magnification view of the same material etched by Weck’s reagent, revealing the fine equiaxed aluminum grain structure that gives the A6061-RAM2 material its exceptional printability and properties.

Elementum 3D develops custom materials tailored for numerous applications, and sells unique feedstock powders with precise printing process parameters. Its feedstock powders can be further customized for specific applications. This gives customers the materials freedom needed to increase product strength, durability, and performance, and to reduce weight and cost.

Additive manufacturing is widely seen as a new frontier in metal manufacturing. Although it brings many advantages, the limited selection of printable metal materials has constrained wider adoption.

“Our revolutionary technology advances metals development for additive manufacturing at an unprecedented pace,” said Elementum 3D President and Founder Jacob Nuechterlein, Ph.D., in a statement. “It gives engineers the extra degree of freedom they have never experienced, inspiring them to bring into existence new and innovative applications.”

Elementum 3D (www.elementum3d.com) specializes in materials and process development. The company’s mission is to “significantly expand the selection of metal additive manufacturing materials by introducing advanced metal alloys, superalloys, and composites, optimized printing processes, performance data, and expert guidance.”

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