“Heating and beating” are not required when lasers are used for precise adjustments in 3D-printed metals.


In a groundbreaking development, a team of researchers led by the University of Cambridge has revolutionized 3D printing technology by using high-energy lasers to enhance the properties of 3D printed metal. While 3D printing has become increasingly popular in various industries, it faces significant challenges that demand innovative approaches to overcome them.

Ordinarily, 3D printing metal involves the deposition of thin layers of metal alloy in the form of a fine powder. These layers are fused together using a laser or electron beam guided by a digital model, and the process is repeated until the final product is complete. However, the major drawback of this method is the limited control over the physical, chemical, and mechanical properties of the metal. If not properly controlled, these properties can result in a subpar end product.

For instance, imagine a 3D-printed knife with intricate curves and details. While it may look impressive, if the properties of the metal are not addressed, it could be so brittle that it would break easily or so soft that it would lose its cutting edge quickly. This is a significant challenge when it comes to manufacturing complex shapes.

Historically, metalworkers have been able to control the properties of metals through heating and shaping methods developed over thousands of years. However, applying these traditional techniques to complex 3D printed shapes is not feasible, as it would negate the advantages of using 3D printing technology in the first place.

In response to this challenge, the interdisciplinary team of researchers from Cambridge, Singapore, Switzerland, Finland, and Australia, turned to lasers as a solution. Their innovative approach involved selectively melting spots on the completed stainless steel object using a laser, thereby altering its crystalline structure. The laser essentially acted as a microscopic hammer, allowing for precise control over the metal’s properties.

To mimic the effect of traditional metalworking techniques, the team alternated between treating spots with the laser and leaving others untouched. This created a finely layered structure with varying properties, similar to the technique used to produce high-quality sword blades. The result was a 3D-printed metal object with enhanced strength and reduced brittleness.

According to Dr. Matteo Seita, the team leader from Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, this technique has the potential to decrease the costs associated with metal 3D printing, which in turn could improve the sustainability of the metal manufacturing industry. Furthermore, the researchers hope to eliminate the need for low-temperature treatment in a furnace, reducing the number of steps required before the use of 3D-printed parts in engineering applications.

This groundbreaking research paves the way for further advancements in 3D printing technology. By fine-tuning the properties of 3D-printed metal, engineers and manufacturers can unlock new possibilities in producing complex and durable objects. The potential applications of this technique are vast, ranging from aerospace components to medical devices.

The study was published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Communications, solidifying the importance and impact of this breakthrough in the field of 3D printing. With continued interdisciplinary research and development, the future of 3D printing looks brighter than ever.

Original source


“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”

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