A new MIT-developed heat treatment transforms the microscopic structure of 3D-printed metals, making the materials stronger and more resilient in extreme thermal environments. The technique could make it possible to 3D print high-performance blades and vanes for power-generating gas turbines and jet engines.

Scientists at MTI say they have found a way to improve the structure of 3D-printed alloys by adding an additional heat-treating step, which transforms the as-printed material’s fine grains into much larger columnar grains. This sturdier microstructure should minimize the material’s creep potential since the columns are aligned with the axis of greatest stress.