Materials

Amaero’s high-performance aluminum alloy enters final stage of patent approval

Metal AM specialist Amaero has announced that its high-performance 3D printing aluminum alloy, Amaero HOT Al, has entered the national phase (fourth and final stage) of international patent approval. The patent was submitted as part of the Patent Co-operation Treaty, whereby more than 150 participating countries recognise an invention and protect it through one single ‘international patent’. This way, the inventor doesn’t need to run through multiple patent applications to have their work recognised globally.

Barrie Finnin, CEO of Amaero, states: “There has been a significant amount of work completed over more than half a century to improve the heat tolerance of aluminium alloys, to allow them to withstand higher operating temperatures without degradation of mechanical properties. Today, we have a solution through the company’s newly developed Aluminium-scandium alloy, Amaero HOT Al.”

The performance of Amaero HOT Al compared to alternate aluminium alloys. Image via Amaero.
The performance of Amaero HOT Al compared to alternate aluminium alloys. Image via Amaero.

High-performance aluminum alloys

Al alloys, although lightweight, tend not to fare too well in applications where they are exposed to temperatures higher than 160°C. They soften and over-age over time so heavier metals such as steel or titanium are selected instead. This is where Amaero HOT (High Operating Temperature) Al comes in.

The newly developed alloy has high scandium content and can be heat treated and age hardened after 3D printing, giving it a boost to strength and durability. The scandium provides much of the tensile strength of the material and enables alloy stability up to temperatures in the region of 260°C for prolonged periods of time. It was originally developed by researchers at Monash University, Australia in collaboration with Amaero, but Amaero now has exclusive global license rights to the alloy.

HOT Al will form an integral part of the company’s future offering to its extensive list of industrial clients. On top of its use in additive manufacturing, the alloy can also be used with more conventional methods such as extrusion, forging, and casting. With HOT Al, Monash University has now developed and licensed two high-performance alloys that have entered the national patent phase.

Amaero and Monash University have previously been involved in the 3D printing of a jet engine. Photo via Amaero.
Amaero and Monash University have previously been involved in the 3D printing of a jet engine. Photo via Amaero.

Applications of Al alloys

Aluminum is the third most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and is only ⅓ as dense as steel. As a result, Al alloys are commonly used for aerospace components such as welded gas tanks and dashboard panels. Al-scandium alloys, specifically, were first patented in 1971 and have been used in aviation, aerospace, nuclear reactors, and heat exchangers. More recently, they can even be found in sports equipment such as tennis rackets and bicycle frames. 

Aluminum for metal 3D printing is seeing a stream of alloy development. Earlier this year, DED manufacturer Optomec announced an advancement in the material capabilities of its LENS 3D printers. Optomec systems can now be used to deposit any aluminum alloy, including those recently developed with improved properties for additive manufacturing. Elsewhere, QuesTek Innovations has begun work on the development of a new aluminum feedstock in collaboration with the German Aerospace Center. The alloy will exhibit high strength at elevated temperatures between 200°C and 300°C and may even replace titanium for certain applications.

The nominations for the 2020 3D Printing Industry Awards are now open. Who do you think should make the shortlists for this year’s show? Have your say now. 

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Featured image shows Amaero and Monash University’s 3D printed jet engine. Photo via Amaero.

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