TUM, Oerlikon and Linde develop high-strength lightweight aluminum-based alloy
New research alliance for additive manufacturing
Together with the Swiss technology group Oerlikon and the industrial gas manufacturer Linde, the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has entered into a research alliance for additive manufacturing (AM). The partners aim to develop new high-strength, lightweight aluminum-based alloys that can serve the safety and weight reduction needs of the aerospace and automotive industries. The Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs is funding 50 percent of the EUR 1.7 million research project.
This research partnership was born out of the additive manufacturing collaborative announced in early October. TUM, Oerlikon, GE Additive and Linde announced the establishment of a Bavarian additive manufacturing cluster and an Additive Manufacturing Institute to promote higher levels of collaboration and cross-disciplinary research amongst the companies and the university. Having a wide variety of expertise in one geography is expected to accelerate advances in additive manufacturing.
The TUM-Oerlikon-Linde consortium is unique as each of the three members brings its own high-tech expertise to the table in this complex space. Producing the optimum aluminum alloy with a high content of lightweight elements like magnesium through an AM process requires a deep understanding of chemistry, thermoand fluid dynamics. During the manufacturing process, the metal powder is applied one layer at a time on a build plate and melted using a laser beam. This fuses the metal powder together and forms the desired complex, three-dimensional geometries. The process takes place in a well-defined shielding gas atmosphere.
Detailed understanding of the physical phenomenaThe Chair of Aerodynamics and Fluid mechanics at TUM has a detailed understanding of the physical phenomena taking place during the additive manufacturing process using numerical simulations. "The AM research alliance bridges the gap between our latest numerical modeling achievements and future industrial applications," says Prof. Nikolaus Adams. Researchers at TUM have developed a process simulation tool to cover the whole melt pool dynamics - from solid to liquid and gas with phase change models, surface-tension effects and thermal transport. "A detailed insight into the simultaneously occurring thermo-fluid dynamic phenomena is crucial in gaining a better understanding of the entire process and the final material characteristics," adds Dr. Stefan Adami on the benefits of computational fluid dynamics.
Oerlikon’s expertise in powder and material science will contribute to the development of the novel material. ,,There are significant challenges during the additive manufacturing of aluminum alloys because the temperatures reached in the melt pool create an extreme environment that leads to evaporation losses of alloying elements that have comparatively low boiling temperatures - such as magnesium," says Dr. Marcus Giglmaier, Project Manager, AM Institute and Research Funding Manager. "Additionally, the cooling rates of more than 1 million °C per second, create high stresses during the solidification process, which can cause micro cracks in the solid material."
Linde’s pioneering technology and its unrivalled expertise in gas atmosphere control and evaporation suppression during the AM process - including the processing of aluminum-based alloys - overcomes impurities within the print chamber, helping manufacturers to achieve optimal printing conditions. "Characterizing and controlling the gas process during AM not only has the potential to prevent evaporation losses, but also to accelerate the entire printing process," explains Thomas Ammann, Expert Additive Manufacturing at Linde. "Using a tailor-made gas chemistry for the new alloy would help to control the processes occurring in the melt pool and minimize the compositional changes of the alloys, as well as preventing cracking during printing."
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