Twenty years ago, molding was considered the ideal technique to manufacture bulk products. With metal 3D printing being used today, there is a chance to replace this traditional method and enable an array of advantages that includes both a better manufacturing and a low price.

Aluminum burning process in the university research lab of NUST MISIS

With that being said, it should be noted, challenges aroused from these new opportunities often concern materials. Titanium being an optimal metal for manufacturing products for the aerospace industry, its use in 3D printing often raises some concerns given the fire and explosion hazards of powders.

Aluminium, the appropriate alternative

Aluminium is lightweight (density 2700 kg/m3) and moldable, having an elasticity modulus of ~70 MPa. At least, these are the necessary requirements to enable metal 3D printing. The only thing is that, alone, the material is not strong or solid enough: the tensile strength even for the alloy Duralumin is 500 MPa, and its Brinell hardness HB sits at 20 kgf/mm2.

One solution to this problem is therefore to “double the strength of composites obtained by 3D printing from aluminum powder, and advance the characteristics of these products to the quality of titanium alloys: titanium’s strength is about six times higher than that of aluminum, but the density of titanium is 1.7 times higher.”

The solution on how to strengthen aluminum 3D printing was proposed by the research team led by Professor Alexander Gromov from the NUST MISIS Department for Non-Ferrous Metals and Gold.

We have developed a technology to strengthen the aluminum-matrix composites obtained by 3D printing, and we have obtained innovative precursor-modifiers by burning aluminum powders. Combustion products – nitrides and aluminum oxides – are specifically prepared for sintering branched surfaces with transition nanolayers formed between the particles. It is the special properties and structure of the surface that allows the particles to be firmly attached to the aluminum matrix and, as a result, [doubles] the strength of the obtained composites, said Alexander Gromov, Head of the research group.

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