In the domain of metal 3D printing, aluminum is still one of the main materials with tons of applications. It’s relative density and versatility make it desirable for many international firms and printing techniques. Aluminum also has a number of varying forms and alloys that expand its uses. As a result, companies are always looking to create far more of these composite forms. In this same vein, Russian researchers from NUST MISIS have developed an entirely new strain of high-strength aluminum composites that display the quality level of titanium alloys.
Titanium’s strength is about six times higher than that of aluminum, but the density of titanium is 1.7 times higher. The basis for the composites are nitrides and aluminum oxides that the researchers developed through combustion.
These aluminum composites are ideal for the aerospace sector. While titanium has many desirable qualities that could be useful in the field, fire and explosion hazards of powders make it difficult to implement in 3D printing. Although there are many titanium printers, almost none can produce large quantities of it. Alumimum, therefore, serves as a great alternative while also being much lighter.
Developing New Composites
According to the paper, the research deals with the “production of ultrahigh-purity alumina α-Al2O3 (UHPA, 99.999%) with an oxidation of aluminum (purity 99.7%) granules in 0.1 g/mol aqueous solution of potassium hydroxide with a subsequent hydrochloric acid treatment and calcination of the oxidation product at 1450 °C.”
“Combustion products — nitrides and aluminum oxides — are specifically prepared for sintering branched surfaces with transition nanolayers formed between the particles. It is the special properties and structure of the surface that allows the particles to be firmly attached to the aluminum matrix and, as a result, [doubles] the strength of the obtained composites”, said Alexander Gromov, head of the research group.
High strength aluminum constructs could also be cheaper than titanium, as titanium is difficult to find. Currently, the research team are busy building prototypes to show the construct’s capabilities. It could have great potential not just in the aerospace sector but also in automobile manufacturing and naval craft manufacturing. As the research continues, they may discover all new constructs as well.
Featured image courtesy of NUST MISIS, retrieved via their website. Full research is also available here.