A review of recent news certainly highlights some interesting stories. For our industry, additive manufacturing/3D printing is regularly in the headlines. Let’s take a look at these reports and some others making technological impact.

 

Additive Manufacturing

NASA’s Perseverance rover, which lands on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021, will carry 11 metal parts made with 3D printing. Five of the parts are in the PIXL instrument, and the six other 3D-printed parts can be found in an instrument called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE).

Honeywell Aerospace is testing high-temperature alloys from Alloyed because the material is not crack-prone. Specifically, Alloyed’s ABD 900AM material is an age-hardenable, nickel-based superalloy designed for use as laser powder-bed fusion feedstock. Also, Honeywell received its first FAA certification for a flight-critical engine part produced through 3D printing. The part, known as the #4/5 bearing housing, is currently in production and was installed on an in-service engine.

Combining AM and recycling, scientists are strengthening aerospace AM parts using nanofibers made from oil waste. This nanocarbon additive for aluminum powder improves the 3D printing of aerospace composites by increasing the hardness of AM aluminum parts by 1.5 times. Porosity has also been significantly reduced, which increases the safety of these parts produced for applications within the aviation and space industries.

A team from the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems has developed a Multi-Material Jetting (MMJ) system that allows different materials to be combined into a single AM part. This is a natural but interesting technological development.

Porsche, in a joint project with Mahle and Trumpf, manufactured engine pistons from high-purity metal powder using the laser metal fusion (LMF) process, where a laser beam heats and melts the powder surface corresponding to the part contour.

 

Other Technology News

A move to renewable-energy technology requires a way to store generated heat. A German startup, Kraftblock, is working on a super-hot box that can store waste heat up to 1300°C (2372°F). The box can then be transferred from an industrial site to a different location to be used for heating a local apartment or office building.

A report from McKinsey & Company indicates that EV batteries are creating a global demand for metal nickel, which is expected to increase from 2.2 million metric tons to somewhere in the range of 3.5-4.0 million metric tons by 2030.

In November, Virgin’s hyperloop completed its first test with passengers. The test involved sending two people at speeds exceeding 100 mph, but the pods are designed for as many as 28 passengers travelling at speeds of more than 620 mph. The technology uses magnetic levitation in a low-pressure tube, and pods will also be capable of carrying cargo. Tata Steel and POSCO have joined forces to develop the tubes necessary for this type of travel.

Nuclear startup NuScale has received a final safety evaluation report (FSER) for its 50-megawatt modular fission water reactor design. It is the first American modular design to reach this point.

An innovative method for aluminum recycling has been boosted by research showing the microscopic changes that take place when molten alloys cool. High-speed X-ray imaging was used to record the formation of micro-crystals as alloys cool and solidify under a magnetic field. 

Here’s something else that might also be useful in aluminum recycling. Japanese scientists have developed a machine-learning approach that can predict the elements and manufacturing processes needed to obtain an aluminum alloy with specific, desired mechanical properties. The program learns about materials, including alloying elements, mechanical processing and heat treatment.

We hope technology and its exciting developments make interesting news throughout 2021.