QUESTEK INNOVATIONS LLC has developed a new aluminum alloy for additive manufacturing, capable of high-strength performance at elevated temperatures (200-300°C) in the as-built condition. According to the developer, it is believed to be the first powdered aluminum material to meet those requirements without the need for subsequent heat treatment.
QuesTek is a specialist in Integrated Computational Materials Engineering (ICME) technologies that uses a proprietary methodology to design and apply a family of commercially-available Ferrium® steels being used in demanding aerospace, space, and other applications. The new aluminum alloy will be the subject of coordinated R&D with the German Aerospace Center (DLR.)
DLR will print demonstration components of their design for aeronautics and space applications, and prepare a performance brief for European aerospace manufacturers.
Reportedly, the new alloy will make it possible to print lighter-weight precision components not currently possible with traditional manufacturing methods, such as heat exchangers or other components requiring internal cooling channels or other features that cannot be achieved by machining.
Because of the high-temperature strength of printed components using the new alloy, it also will be possible to reduce weight in parts that currently must be formed in titanium alloys.
The new Al alloy was developed using ICME technologies and the Materials by Design® approach, which combines computational technology with an exclusive stage-gate design and development process.
Greg Olson, QuesTek chief science officer, stated: “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. Based on our internal test results, we see broad application of this material in manufacturing components for aerospace, satellite, automotive and high-performance racing.”
Heinz Voggenreiter, director of DLR's Institute of Materials Research, 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.”
The alloy is one of a series of aluminum alloys for AM QuesTek is developing under multiple U.S. Navy-funded Small Business Innovation Research awards. Other Al alloys under development include a high-strength-at-room-temperature variant, and a high-strength and high corrosion-resistance variant. QuesTek is also collaborating on high-temperature Al additive manufacturing alloys for engine applications with Pankl Racing, a manufacturer of advanced production technologies and high-performance components.