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Aluminum Association introduces first material designation system for 3D printing; “Purple Sheets”

The Aluminum Association released its first new material registration record in nearly 20 years. The “purple sheets” will provide clear chemical designations for aluminum powder used in 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing.

The purple sheets are the newest addition to the Aluminum Association’s long-running “rainbow sheet” series, which provides alloy designations and chemical composition limits for various types of aluminum. Aluminum is the first materials industry to develop such a system specific to the 3D printing market.

The first registration granted is for a high-strength aluminum alloy produced by HRL Laboratories, LLC. The association will grant HRL registration number 7A77.50 for the aluminum powder used to additively manufacture the alloy, and number 7A77.60L for the printed alloy.

The purple sheets are a true game-changer for the aluminum industry. For the first time ever, a materials industry has developed a designation system specific to additive manufacturing, opening tremendous growth potential through standardization.

—Jerome Fourmann, global technical director at Rio Tinto Aluminum and chairman of the association’s Technical Committee on Product Standards

A recent report by market research firm SmarTech projected that additive manufacturing using aluminum powder could grow to be a $300 million industry over the next decade. Key markets for aluminum powder in 3D printing include aerospace, automotive, energy transmission and consumer products.

Since 1954, the Aluminum Association has served as the standard-setting body for the US aluminum industry through its Technical Committee on Product Standards (TCPS). The association’s designation system was officially recognized by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in 1970. Today, the association has registered well more than 500 aluminum alloys, up from 75 when the program began more than 60 years ago, underscoring continued innovation in the industry.

The association will publish the purple sheets later this year.

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