Mohawk College and the University of Guelph have partnered to develop a novel ductile iron powder mix specifically for metal 3D printing. The material will be used by Ontario-based machined casting supplier CGL Manufacturing to 3D print high-quality prototypes for its clients, increasing the company’s competitiveness with faster lead times.
“It’s important for the Canadian private sector to compete in a global marketplace. By leveraging academic institutions to help solve key challenges, small and medium-sized companies grow faster and smarter,” states Jeffrey McIsaac, Dean of Applied Research at Mohawk College. “Mohawk’s additive manufacturing expertise will help CGL explore new 3D printing at low risk and will keep them at the forefront of technology.”
Why develop 3D printing-compatible ductile iron?
As it stands, CGL casts its prototypes and end use components using ductile iron, which is known for both its strength and fatigue resistance. Going forward, the company would like to incorporate powder bed fusion into the prototyping phase of its workflow, an additive process that can provide major time and cost savings, especially for low-volume geometrically-complex parts. Unfortunately, ductile iron is not yet commercially available as a 3D printing powder – this is where Mohawk and Guelph step in.
Michael Ritchie, CEO of CGL, explains, “A 24-week lead and set-up time of the casting process is one of the main challenges CGL faces when a sample part is needed for a new client, or for design revisions of current products. We want to provide our clients with a high-quality experience, and part of that is reducing production to market time for samples, new products, and design revisions.”
The joint research project will hopefully yield a material comparable to the one CGL currently relies on; a 3D printing powder with the same chemical composition and mechanical properties as the casted end use components. Guelph, specifically, will be using its Advanced Manufacturing Lab to provide a comprehensive environment to support the research, training, and education required to complete the work.
$500,000 and the expertise of two research institutions
The two-year project is being partially funded by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), which has granted the partners a total of $300,000 through the Innovation Links program. The other $200,000 is being provided by CGL itself via cash and in-kind contributions.
Ritchie concludes, “Our diverse range of capabilities allows us to take on projects that other firms cannot, while providing a level of service unparalleled in our industry. This collaboration with Mohawk and Guelph will provide our clients with an additional reason to rely on Canadian innovation.”
This certainly isn’t the first instance of Canada’s own research councils funding work related to additive manufacturing. The National Research Council (NRC) has previously launched an initiative to advance the research, development and adoption of cold spray additive manufacturing in the country. Together with Quebec-based surface engineering company Polycontrols, the NRC opened a specialized cold spraying facility in February of 2020 to scale the technology for mass production.
Elsewhere, the NSERC has previously funded Canada’s Holistic Innovation in Additive Manufacturing Network (HI-AM) to advance metal 3D printing for aerospace, automotive and medical applications. The network comprises seven Canadian and five international universities and fifteen industrial organizations, and is intended to overcome challenges such as a lack of health and safety standards, build volume limitations, and quality assurance for 3D printed parts.
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Featured image shows preliminary test components 3D printed using ductile iron. Photo via Mohawk College.