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Manufacturing – Taking the heat

A 3D printed turbine blade demonstrates the use of the new class of nickel-based superalloys that can withstand extreme heat environments without cracking or losing strength. Credit: ORNL/U.S. Dept. of Energy

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have demonstrated that a new class of superalloys made of cobalt and nickel remains crack-free and defect-resistant in extreme heat, making them conducive for use in metal-based 3D printing applications.

Metal materials have proven to be cost-effective for manufacturing, and deploying them for use in additive processes could enable the production of innovative, complex designs with minimal material waste. However, these materials are primarily used in energy, space and nuclear applications that also produce extreme heat environments.

In a study, researchers processed the cobalt and nickel class of superalloys and proved that they remained crack-free in electron-beam and laser-melting 3D printing processes.

“The challenge has been producing alloys that don’t crack in the heat,” ORNL’s Mike Kirka said. “These superalloys have the material properties necessary for challenging environments, because they not only successfully withstood the heat but also retained strength when stretched.”