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NASA 3D-Printing Process Transitions from Metal to Metal

Researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are implementing a 3D-printing process that transitions from one metal or alloy to another in a single object.

"You can have a continuous transition from alloy to alloy to alloy, and you can study a wide range of potential alloys," said R. Peter Dillon, a technologist at JPL. "We think it's going to change materials research in the future."

Although gradient alloys have been created in the past in research and development settings, this is the first time these composite materials have been used in making objects, such as a mount for a mirror, said John Paul Borgonia, a JPL mechanical engineer.

In their new technique, Hofmann and his colleagues deposit layers of metal on a rotating rod, thus transitioning metals from the inside out, rather than adding layers from bottom to top, as in the more traditional 3-D printing technique. A laser melts metal powder to create the layers. Future space missions may incorporate parts made with this technique.

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