3DPrinting.com reports that the use of new technology allows the creation of alloys with compositional grades suitable for extreme environments.

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Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, has revolutionized many industries by allowing for the production of complex, customized parts. However, when it comes to composite metal parts, there has always been a challenge – welding. Welding is the traditional method used for joining different metal parts together, but it can be expensive and compromise the performance of the final product.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have now developed a new technique that eliminates the need for welding in additive manufacturing. Using a powder composed of a third transition alloy with lightweight or high-temperature characteristics, they have created a way to seamlessly transition from high-strength superalloys to refractory alloys capable of withstanding extreme temperatures.

The key to this process lies in what the researchers call the “secret sauce” – the powder. By depositing different powder compositions in an inert argon environment and adjusting the deposition rate along the way, the researchers are able to create compositionally graded composite parts. It is like cooking, as lead researcher Soumya Nag explains, “So, if you have more pasta on one side and more risotto on the other side, how do you continuously change from a pasta to a risotto? You change the ingredients as you move along from one end to another, and that’s exactly what we do.”

This new technique offers several advantages over traditional methods. Firstly, it allows for the creation of parts with varied properties without the need for welding or using dissimilar materials. This means that there are no abrupt interfaces between different parts, resulting in improved performance. Secondly, by eliminating the need for welding, the process becomes more cost-effective.

The researchers validated their technique by joining non-weldable superalloys with refractory alloys. They used computational thermodynamics and experimental data to create a non-linear gradient pathway, and then analyzed stress states using neutron diffraction-based studies. The results were successful, opening up a wide range of potential applications for this technology.

The potential applications for this new additive manufacturing technique are vast. They include rocket engines for space, aerospace manufacturing, fusion and fission reactor fabrication, marine-related uses, and renewable energy systems. Essentially, any field where extreme environments exist could benefit from this technology.

This breakthrough in additive manufacturing has the potential to revolutionize the production of composite metal parts. By eliminating the need for welding and allowing for compositionally graded parts, the researchers at ORNL have opened up new possibilities for customization and improved performance. The future of additive manufacturing looks bright, and we can’t wait to see what innovations come next.

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