QuesTek Innovations and DLR to develop high-temperature aluminum alloy for 3D printing

High performance materials manufacturer QuesTek Innovations LLC has announced that it will be developing a new 3D printer feedstock in collaboration with the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

An aluminum alloy, the new material from the two companies will exhibit high strength at elevated temperatures between 200 and 300°C. At this level of performance, the material will be able to replace titanium in some applications, making components and equipment lighter than before.

Heinz Voggenreiter, Director of the Institute of Materials Research for the DLR, has deemed the material a type of “extraordinary printable alloy.” “For additive manufacturing to become a production technology with the capacity to produce components capable of performing in high temperature, high-stress applications, new extraordinary printable alloys will be needed,” he said, adding:

“The German Aerospace Center, with its decades of experience in the development of materials and structures for space and aeronautics, is an ideal cooperation partner for QuesTek to explore intended applications.”

Over a decade of SBIR/STTR innovation

QuesTek operates in the field of Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME), designing ultra high performance materials at a faster rate, and lower cost, than in traditional trial-and-error.

For near 20 years, QuesTek has been working closely with the U.S. government as a longstanding beneficiary of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, winning millions of dollars in R&D contracts.

One of the products of QuesTek’s work funded by the SBIR program has been a family of Ferrium steels, used to make components for aerospace, motor racing and oil and gas sectors. Ferrium C64, in particular, was developed for a U.S. Navy project which sought new high strength steel for the production of helicopter gears. The sales and phase III revenue of this material has made an impact of $52 million.

The impact of QuesTek's Ferrium C64 development. Image via SBIR/STTR
The impact of QuesTek’s Ferrium C64 development. Image via SBIR/STTR

The new high temperature aluminum alloy is also being developed as one in a series of ongoing projects at QuesTek funded by U.S. Navy SBIRs. In the past, the company has also collaborated to make titanium alloys for Norsk Titanium’s Rapid Plasma Deposition process.

High strength aluminum for aerospace and motorsport

According to Greg Olson, Chief Science Officer at QuesTek, the company has already undertaken some preliminary testing for the new aluminum.  For its part in the project, the DLR will 3D print demonstration aerospace components in the new material, then prepare a performance brief for European aerospace manufacturers.

“Based on our internal test results, we see broad application of this material in manufacturing components for aerospace, satellite, automotive and high-performance racing,” Olson said, adding “We are particularly pleased to be collaborating with the DLR. Their unrivaled reputation, expertise and close relationship with industry needs will bring an important new scope to our efforts.”

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Featured image shows the DLR’s low-speed wind tunnel in Braunschweig. Photo by DNW/DLR