Laser is like a hammer, new strategy of 3D printing technology innovates the iron casting process
Release time:2024.01.26
In ancient times, people repeatedly hammered pig iron that was burned red at high temperatures, ultimately converting it into steel. Now, a team led by the University of Cambridge in the UK has revolutionized technology and developed a new method for 3D printing metal, which can program structural changes into metal alloys during the printing process, fine tune their performance, without the need for the thousands of years of "heating forging" process. This method can reduce costs and more effectively utilize resources. The research results were published in the 30th issue of the journal Nature Communications.
One of the main drawbacks of current 3D printing technology is the inability to control the internal structure in the same way. This time, the team has developed a new strategy for 3D printing metal, which can highly control the internal structure when the material is melted by laser. By controlling the way that material solidifies after melting and the heat generated during this process, researchers can program the properties of the final material.
When 3D printed metal components are placed at relatively low temperatures, it triggers controlled microstructure reconstruction, it can fully control the strength and toughness of the metal.
Researchers have found that lasers can be used as miniature "hammers" to harden metals during the 3D printing process. However, using the same laser for a second melting of the metal will cause its structure to relax, allowing for structural reconfiguration when the parts are placed in the furnace. Their 3D printed steel has undergone theoretical design and experimental verification, and its performance is comparable to that of steel made by heating and forging.
There is not much difference between steel and iron in terms of their constituent elements. Iron can be refined into steel and vice versa. Simply put, after high-temperature calcination and other processes, the carbon content in iron decreases, making it steel. Steel products have various advantages such as high strength, good toughness, high temperature resistance, corrosion resistance, and ease of processing, which make them surpass several grades of iron in one go. These subtle and complex chemical processes are now reproduced in 3D printing. The research team uses lasers to alter the internal structure of metal materials, thereby controlling their properties. We will also add elements such as chromium and manganese to the steel, and steel 3D printing technology may continue to be upgraded in the future, presenting different alloy steel characteristics.

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