Steel becomes more affordable with the introduction of a novel 3D-printing technique that utilizes new laser technology.


**Revolutionizing Metal 3D Printing: A Greener and More Cost-Effective Approach**

When we think of metal production, the image of intense heat, pounding hammers, and labor-intensive processes often come to mind. For thousands of years, this conventional method of metal forming has been the go-to practice, offering control over the material’s properties and shape. However, with the advent of 3D printing, a new era of metal production is on the horizon.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed a groundbreaking method for 3D printing metal that not only reduces cost but also increases resource efficiency. Published in the journal Nature Communications, this innovative approach allows for structural alterations to be ‘written’ into metal alloys during the printing process, eliminating the need for the traditional ‘heating and pounding.’

By combining the capabilities of 3D printing and the characteristics of older metal production methods, the team at Cambridge has opened up a world of possibilities. 3D printing offers the ability to create complex forms, while the engineering of metal structures and properties remains unchanged. It’s a marriage of modern technology and ancient craftsmanship.

One of the biggest advantages of 3D printing over traditional techniques is its ability to produce intricate designs while using less material. This not only makes the process more efficient but also reduces production costs. However, despite its potential, 3D printing has yet to become widely adopted in the business world due to the high manufacturing costs.

The need for extensive post-production modifications is one of the main drivers behind these expenses. Unlike the traditional method, current 3D printing technology lacks the ability to regulate the interior structure of the printed metal. This limitation necessitates additional tuning and adjustments after manufacturing.

To tackle this challenge, the researchers at Cambridge have devised a new recipe for 3D-printed metal that allows for precise control over its interior structure. By manipulating the substance’s solidification process and the amount of heat generated during printing, they can tailor the properties of the finished material.

One of the key findings of their research involves initiating a controlled reconfiguration of the microstructure of the 3D-printed metal item. By placing the item in a furnace at a low temperature, the researchers can achieve complete control over both its strength and toughness. This breakthrough technique leverages a typical laser-based 3D printing process, with slight modifications.

The laser serves as a microscopic hammer, hardening the metal during printing. However, a second round of melting with the same laser relaxes the metal’s structure, allowing for the desired reconfiguration to take place when the part is placed in the furnace. This “alternating zones” approach creates a final product whose performance is equivalent to that of conventionally produced metal.

The potential impact of this technology is immense. Not only does it hold the promise of reducing the costs associated with metal 3D printing, but it also enhances the industry’s sustainability. By leveraging the greener aspects of 3D printing, such as reduced material consumption, precise control over properties, and streamlined processes, this method has the potential to revolutionize metal production.

Looking ahead, the researchers aim to further refine the technology, reducing the need for low-temperature treatment in the furnace. This would significantly decrease the number of processes required before 3D-printed parts can be used in engineering applications. The future of metal production is being reshaped, and this new method paves the way for a greener, more cost-effective, and efficient industry.

As we witness the convergence of cutting-edge technology and time-honored craftsmanship, the possibilities are endless. With each new breakthrough, we inch closer to a future where metal production is sustainable, affordable, and accessible. The journey towards this vision begins now, with the pioneering work of researchers at the University of Cambridge.

Original source


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

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