Additive manufacturing of aluminum is a small but growing segment, with applications being utilized in niche sectors of the industrial and aerospace industries. In particular, manufacturers are interested in implementing 7000 series aluminum for additive manufacturing due to its high strength. These alloys have also been commonly used in cast, forged, or extruded components for high stress parts, such as aircraft landing gear components.
In response to this growing interest, Optomec Inc. has added 7000 series aluminum alloys to its list of qualified for use in its LENS 3D DED metal printers. The company has enabled the use of these alloys through its laser optics solution, which allows the size and profile of the laser-heated region to be remotely adjusted for a particular alloy.
Different metals and alloys require different sets of process parameters, referred to as “process recipes.” Depending on the alloy, it can take months of experimentation to optimize a recipe for a new alloy, including powder screening, process development and tuning, samples production, mechanical testing, metallurgical analysis, etc.
To save its customers time and development cost, Optomec offers qualified Process Recipes for a wide range of common metal alloys, including basic steels, titanium, and now aluminum, including 7000 series. Aluminum recipes are available for a range of print scenarios, including thin-walled, high-resolution, and bulk deposit versions as “starter recipes,” or it can develop part-specific production recipes for specific end-user geometries upon request. Further, the company is developing Print Libraries that include print geometry for specific common LENS applications, such as turbine blade repair.
“We can develop new material recipes much faster now,” said Lucas Brewer, head of Optomec’s Applications Engineering Group in Albuquerque. “Our new deposition head technology is really the key to getting the DED process to print these new alloys in a repeatable way for our production customers. It’s opened up a ton of new applications for metal additive manufacturing.”