New research from the University of Rostock indicates high potential for a novel method of producing high-strength metal mixtures – at least in the lab, at this point. The researchers, led by Dr. Eberhard Burkel, Professor of Physics of New Materials, used a tech called Spark Plasma Sintering (SPS), which in the acronym-happy world of 3D printing, where a single name just never seems good enough, is also known as FAST (Field Assisted Sintering Technique) or PECS (Pulsed Electric Current Sintering). SPS, in short, refers to using an electric current in the fabrication process to create internal heat in the powder particles to be hardened, not using plasma or actual sparks despite the name. This process enables very high heating and cooling rates, of which the latter leads to very strong results and also cost and environment-wise uses only a small amount of energy in doing so.
The innovative new element the research team added to the SPS process was an integrated gas quenching mechanism, which was used to alternate the phase compositions and simultaneously retain the smallest grain features. The cooling process was also enhanced by pushing nitrogen gas into the print chamber, further strengthening the results. Number-wise, the team used Titanium (Ti-6Al-4V) to test the effect of different cooling rates and ended up with a 12% harder alloy compared with naturally cooled mixtures, and it was also significantly more ductile.
What does this all mean in practice then? Hopefully, new innovations in the biomedical, aerospace and other fields, which could benefit the most from strong and ductile alloys. One of the study authors, Dr. Faming Zhang, states that: “The system will play a major role in the production of novel materials, from metals, alloys, metal matrix composites to micro- and nano-structured semiconductors.”
The research report was originally published in Materials Today (volume 16, issue 5).
Via: Science World Report