MIT-led engineers have published a paper showing how they developed a simple and inexpensive method to strengthen a key material used in aerospace and nuclear energy applications. The team used 3D printing to create a metallic powder reinforced with ceramic nanowires, resulting in significantly stronger parts with fewer cracks and porosity.
The technique involved milling Inconel 718, a popular superalloy capable of withstanding extreme conditions, with ceramic nanowires to achieve a homogeneous decoration of nano-ceramics on the alloy’s surfaces. The resulting powder was then used in laser powder bed fusion 3D printing to produce complex 3D parts.
The researchers believe that their approach can be extended to improve the performance of other materials as well. The resulting parts exhibit improved ductility, resistance to radiation, and high-temperature loading. Moreover, the process is cost-effective as it can be implemented using existing 3D printing machines.
The work has the potential to revolutionize alloy design, as the cooling rate of ultrathin 3D-printed metal layers is much faster than conventional casting processes. This opens up a larger composition space for exploring base metal with ceramic additions. The team’s innovative method has received praise from experts in the field who recognize its potential for enhancing other metal matrix composites and alloys.
“The precision and scalability that comes with 3D printing has opened up a world of new possibilities for materials design,” said Alexander O’Brien, a lead author on the paper.
“Our results here are an exciting early step in a process that will surely have a major impact on design for nuclear, aerospace, and all energy generation in the future.”
The paper, titled ”Strengthening additively manufactured Inconel 718 through in-situ formation of nanocarbides and silicides” can be found in the Additive Manufacturing journal, at this link.
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