QuesTek Innovations LLC developed a new aluminum alloy for additive manufacturing, which is said to be capable of high-strength performance at elevated temperatures (200-300°C) when in the as-built condition.
The New Alloy
According to QuesTek, the new aluminum alloy for additive manufacturing is believed to be the first powdered aluminum material to meet those requirements without the need for subsequent heat treatment. The new alloy will enable the printing of lighter-weight precision components not currently possible with traditional manufacturing methods. Examples include heat exchangers or other components requiring internal cooling channels or other such features that cannot be achieved via machining. Because of the high-temperature performance and strength of printed components using the new alloy, it will also be possible to reduce weight in parts that currently must be made from titanium.
“The accelerated design and development of a printable aluminum alloy capable of meeting so many current needs is especially exciting, as it will enable concurrent design of material composition and component geometry,” said Greg Olson, chief science officer, QuesTek. “Based on our internal test results, we see broad application of this material in manufacturing components for aerospace, satellite, automotive, and high-performance racing,”
The new alloy was developed using QuesTek’s Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) technology and “Materials by Design®” approach, which combines the company’s computational technology with an exclusive stage-gate design and development process. The ICME method enables QuesTek to focus on the rapid design and development of materials, from a conceptual need through product insertion.
Further Research & Development
In an effort to explore the full potential of the aluminum alloy, QuesTek is collaborating with the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft-und Raumfahrt, “DLR”). Under the agreement, the DLR will print demonstration components using the alloy for aeronautics and space applications, and prepare a performance brief for European aerospace manufacturers. “We are particularly pleased to be collaborating with the DLR,” said Olsen. “Their unrivaled reputation, expertise and close relationship with industry needs will bring an important new scope to our efforts.”
Heinz Voggenreiter, director of the Institute of Materials Research for the DLR, said, “For additive manufacturing to become a production technology with the capacity to produce components capable of performing in high-temperature, high-stress applications, new extraordinary printable alloys will be needed. The German Aerospace Center, with its decades of experience in the development of materials and structures for space and aeronautics, is an ideal cooperation partner for QuesTek to explore intended applications.”
This new high-temperature alloy is one of a series of aluminum alloys for additive manufacturing QuesTek is developing, under multiple U.S. Navy-funded Small Business Innovation Research awards. Other aluminum alloys under development by QuesTek include a high strength at-room-temperature variant, as well as high strength and highly corrosion-resistant variant. QuesTek is also collaborating closely on high-temperature aluminum additive manufacturing alloys for engine applications with Pankl Racing, an Austrian-based manufacturer known for advanced production technologies and high-performance components.