New, Stronger Metals from Missouri University of Science and Technology

Researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology have been using a $660,000 grant from NASA to simulate stronger materials for 3D printing.  Led by Dr. Frank Liou, of the school’s Laser Aided Manufacturing Process (LAMP) Laboratory, the team is using computer models to determine how to print metal combinations that will yield alloys that are more durable than their constituent parts.

Frank Liou LAMP Lab
Dr. Liou at work in the LAMP Lab.

The computer modelling of various additive manufacturing techniques, Liou hopes, will lead to an understanding of how different metal compositions will bond with the surfaces onto which they are deposited, with Liou saying, “In many aerospace or biomedical applications, you cannot afford metal fatigue. It is important to understand how well a deposited metal bonds to the surface.” One proposed method that Liou is pursuing is a hybrid manufacturing technique, direct laser melting combinations of metals, like steel and copper, and then polishing them with CNC.

With a second round of funding, a $750,000 grant from the space agency, the Missouri S&T researchers will be able to move from simulation, to the actual execution of such procedures, with the possibility to create new materials not found in nature with a variety of uses.  The production of denser, stronger metal alloys, for instance, could be used for the repair of costly metal components that might otherwise be discarded, as Liou says, “Some dies or moulds could cost a quarter of a million dollars to replace.”