New research shows 3D metals to be strong and ductile

3D printed part for nuclear fusion test reactor

A new technique by which to 3D print metals, involving a widely used stainless steel, has been shown to achieve exceptional levels of both strength and ductility, when compared to counterparts from more conventional processes.

The findings, published in Materials Today, outline how a joint research team from the University of Birmingham, UK, Stockholm University, Sweden and Zhejiang University, China were able to optimizing the process parameters during 3D printing to achieve the results.

The research is contrary to the scepticism around the ability to make strong and ductile metals through 3D printing, and as such the discovery is crucial to moving the technology forward for the manufacturing of heavy duty parts.

Indeed, the manufacturing giant General Electric (GE) has already been using metal 3D printing to produce some key parts, such as the fuel nozzles in their latest LEAP aircraft engine.

The global revenue from the industry is forecasted to be over USD 20 B per year by 2025. In most metal 3D printing processes, products are directly built up from metal powders, which makes it susceptible to defects, thus causing deterioration of mechanical properties.