Of the high-tech stories out there today, additive manufacturing (AM) tops them all. In fact, AM is almost becoming “normal.” With all of the interest in AM, we will be focusing the Academic Pulse column in 2020 exclusively on AM. Here’s a look at just a few of the stories we have been talking about.

New powders for AM are being developed constantly. A research project – High Strength Aluminum Powder for Additive Manufacture (HighSAP) – to further develop and optimize Aeromat International’s AM powder, A20X, has resulted in “one of the strongest aluminum additive manufacturing powders commercially available.” Similarly, with the launch of 7A77 aluminum powder, California’s HRL Laboratories is reported to have created the strongest AM aluminum to date.

On the steel side, a new project coordinated by SMS Group GmbH, AddSteel, aims to develop new function-adapted AM steel materials. One of AddSteel’s first reported successes was the development of case-hardenable and heat-treatable steel powders.

New AM products and processes are also being developed. An Arizona State University (ASU) team won an ASM award for their design of a heat treatment for additively manufactured AM355. A 20% increase in tensile strength was achieved while processing time was reduced by 50% and costs were cut 20%. Another heat-treatment-related improvement involving austempering is described by its U.S. patent. Like ASU, it also results in enhanced productivity and reduced cost.

The Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory (ARL) awarded a $15 million contract to 3D Systems of Rock Hill, S.C., to create “the world’s largest, fastest, most-precise metal 3D printer.” The Army has been using AM for 20 years and plans to utilize that experience and new technology to broaden applications.

A Wisconsin company has produced an AM stainless steel turbine blade nearly 6 feet long using a continuous 30-hour production run. The structure is 20 inches wide, hollow inside and has 0.5-mm-wide side walls. It weighs 135 pounds. In addition to the direct-energy deposition (DED) process used here, several other techniques are being used to produce these large-scale AM parts.

As reported in our Best-of magEzine news stories last month, number six on the list was about the development of material for armor. A material composed of steel composite metal foam (CMF), a ceramic face plate and an aluminum back plate has been shown to resist .50-caliber rounds as well as steel armor of twice the weight. CMF is made by bubbling gas through molten metal to produce a frothy mixture, which is embedded with hollow, metallic spheres and cooled to form a lightweight matrix.

Robots and cobots are another example of technology integrating with manufacturing. One recent story is about the integration of exoskeletons. Following success with mandated exoskeletons for 24 workers in its Woodstock plant weld shop, almost 200 of the 7,400 employees at Toyota’s plant in Princeton, Ind., will be required to use the Levitate AIRFRAME exoskeleton to perform their daily duties.

With all of the electric vehicles being developed, battery technology is a significant development, and materials are important in this development. A British engineer created a battery that promises greatly increased range without a charge. The developer, Trevor Jackson, says if you replaced a Tesla Model S lithium-ion battery with one of his aluminum-air batteries of the same size, range would increase from 370 to 1,500 miles.

AI and the IIoT are also technologies being developed that have impacted our world. A search of “AI” on our website provides 32 news stories or articles for you to read. The same search for IIoT or IoT yields 35 more articles or news items related to these developments.

You can count on Industrial Heating to stay focused on reporting the latest news affecting our industry. The print magazine you are holding is one source, but newsletters and our website also provide timely information. All the best for a productive 2020!