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Research Explores a New Layer in Additive Manufacturing

Posted on: 09/17/2013
Aided by funding from NASA, researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology (S&T) are using computer models of various additive manufacturing approaches to create stronger, more durable materials. The Missouri S&T team also plans to fabricate some of these new materials in the near future.

Additive manufacturing involves the use of high-powered lasers to melt small particles of powdered materials as they exit a nozzle to create three-dimensional shapes, layer by layer. This process can result in a denser, stronger material than conventional methods, such as milling, machining or metal forging.

In their latest efforts, the Missouri S&T researchers combine additive manufacturing with more conventional approaches to creating materials. They have dubbed this technique “hybrid manufacturing.”

With hybrid manufacturing, an additive manufacturing technique could be applied to create aircraft components from two different metals—perhaps steel and copper—and then smooth the rough edges using automated computer-numerical control machining. The intent of the project funded by NASA is to develop computer models that will lead to a greater understanding of how layered materials adhere, or bond, to the surface on which they are deposited.

Additional funding from NASA will also support the Missouri S&T team in its next step of research—the fabrication of new materials not generally observed in nature. The project could lead to stronger metals, as well as a way to repair expensive components instead of scrapping them.

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