3D printing could strengthen tomorrow's technology

Researchers have found that 3D printing technology can help improve the strength and ductility of objects.

3D printing
A 3D-printed Facebook like button is displayed in front of the Twitter logo, in this illustration taken October 25, 2017. Reuters

Recent research on 3D print technology in order to improve strength and ductility of objects has found that the technique can be used to improve the properties of its elements.

"Strength and ductility are natural enemies of one another, most methods developed to strengthen metals consequently reduce ductility. The 3D printing technique is known to produce objects with previously inaccessible shapes, and our work shows that it also provides the possibility to produce the next generation of structural alloys with significant improvements in both strength and ductility," said Leifeng Liu, of the University of Birmingham.

According to a research paper published in the journal Materials Today, researchers from the University of Birmingham, UK, Stockholm University, Sweden and Zhejiang University, China were able to optimize the strength and ductility of metals by using 3D printing technology. They found that the stainless steel which was built using 3D printing technique showed greater strength and ductility than its counterparts.

The finding changed the outlook towards 3D printing by producing strong and ductile metals which could be used to manufacture heavy-duty devices. The 3D printing technology had long been recognized as a technology which could change the mode of functioning for the manufacturing industries as it could build complex objects in customized geometrics.

The technique has been already used in commercial scale. It is believed that the global revenue procured using the technology would be over 20 billion USD per annum by 2025. The industrialists are all using metal powders for production of 3D printed goods. This has led to skepticism that this method could deteriorate mechanical properties of the products.

Metals are cooled down at an ultrafast cooling rate which ranges from 1000 C per second to 100 million C per second. This gives a non-equilibrium state to the metals which improve their mechanical properties.

Dr. Liu said, "This work gives researchers a brand new tool to design new allow systems with ultra-mechanical properties. It also helps metal 3D printing to gain access into the field where high mechanical properties are required like structural parts in aerospace and automotive industry."

Another research has found that the 3D printing technology has wider application in the bioprobes which are the analytical instruments which convert biological signals into electrical signals. These instruments can be used in sensors, activators, and energy harvesters as an aid to organs and tissues.

NASA organized competitions to develop 3D printing technology which could support its mission for human settlements on Mars and the Moon. NASA is also testing the technology in the International Space Station.

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