October 28, 2020

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Empa is researching methods for magnetic 3D printing

Empa is researching methods for magnetic 3D printing
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The researchers printed a tiny chess board with 16 surfaces. The special thing is that the fields have different properties, even though the entire workpiece has been 3D printed from a single type of metal powder. Eight surfaces are magnetic, eight are non-magnetic. For this purpose, only the strength and duration of the incident laser light were varied.

An Empa team led by Ariyan Arabi-Hashemi and Christian Leinenbach used a special grade of stainless steel as a starting point. was developed by Hempel Special Metals in Dübendorf. The so-called P2000 steel does not contain nickel, but around one percent nitrogen. P2000 steel does not cause allergies and is well suited for medical purposes. It is particularly hard, which makes conventional machining by milling difficult. Unfortunately, it also appears to be unsuitable as a base material for 3D laser printing at first glance. It quickly gets very hot in the melting zone of the laser beam. Therefore, a large part of the nitrogen contained normally evaporates and the P2000 steel changes its properties.

The researchers printed a tiny chess board with 16 surfaces. The special thing is that the fields have different properties, even though the entire workpiece has been 3D printed from a single type of metal powder. Eight surfaces are magnetic, eight are non-magnetic. For this purpose, only the strength and duration of the incident laser light were varied.

As part of the experiment, the researchers had to determine the nitrogen content in tiny, millimeter-sized metal samples very precisely and measure the local magnetization to within a few micrometers, as well as the volume ratio of austenitic and ferritic steel. A number of highly developed analysis methods were used for this, which are available at Empa.

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“With 3D printing, we easily reach temperatures of more than 2500 degrees Celsius locally,” explains Leinenbach. “This allows us to specifically vaporize various components of an alloy – e.g. As manganese, aluminum, zinc, carbon and more – and thus change the chemical composition locally. ” The method is not limited to stainless steels, but can also be useful for many other alloys.

Leinenbach, for example, thinks of nickel-titanium alloys, which are known as shape memory alloys. The temperature at which the alloy remembers its specified shape depends on just 0.1 percent more or less nickel in the mixture. With the help of a 3D laser printer, components could be created that react staggered locally to different temperatures.