The NanoSteel Company (earlier post) has expanded its additive manufacturing (AM) material capabilities to support metal 3D printing of complex high-hardness parts and the ability to customize properties layer-by-layer through gradient material design. The company’s targeted markets for its AM powder portfolio are tool & die, energy, auto, and agriculture.
In September 2014, Nanosteel announced the expansion of the company’s engineered powders business into additive manufacturing. By leveraging the uniform metal matrix microstructures in the laser-sintering process, the company was able to build a crack-free, fully dense bulk sample. The company then leveraged this breakthrough in AM wear materials to print a bearing and impeller using the powder bed fusion process.
These parts were measured to be fully dense and crack-free, with hardness levels >1000 HV. These properties were achieved without the need for post-processing such as hot isostatic pressing (HIP) or further heat treatment, reducing production cost and lead times.
By delivering these properties in functional parts, NanoSteel said it took a significant step in the development of metal powders that enable affordable, robust industrial components produced on-demand through the 3D-printing process.
The company has now used a combination of high hardness and ductile alloys to create a part featuring a gradient design. NanoSteel worked with Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology to generate part samples using freeform direct laser deposition. This single additive manufacturing process achieved a seamless transition between the hard and ductile properties without subsequent heat treatment.
|Using a combination of high hardness and ductile alloys, NanoSteel has generated samples with gradient properties through freeform direct laser deposition.|
These gradient materials designs offer the equivalent of “digital case hardening”—delivering impact resistance and overall robustness in addition to high hardness and wear resistance in a single part.
By providing this capability, NanoSteel offers OEMs considerable design flexibility in meeting part-performance requirements while taking advantage of the operational efficiencies of AM including on-demand availability, less inventory and lower transportation costs.
Proprietary metal alloys that support the cost-effective 3D printing of high-quality parts will help accelerate the transition from subtractive to additive manufacturing across applications such as wear parts, bearings, and cutting tools. The company’s AM powder offerings make it possible to design exclusively for the function of a high hardness part, releasing designers from the limitations of conventional production processes and opening new opportunities to improve performance.—Harald Lemke, NanoSteel’s General Manager of Engineered Powders
Over its thirteen-year history, NanoSteel has created progressive generations of iron-based alloys from surface coatings to foils to powder metals and sheet steel. For the automotive industry, NanoSteel has achieved a significant breakthrough in the development of nano-structured sheet steel with exceptional strength and ductility. NanoSteel is a privately held company funded by lead shareholders EnerTech and Fairhaven Capital. GM Ventures also has a position in the company. (Earlier post.)