Multimaterial metal 3D printing accomplished by WSU LENS project

A team of researchers at Washington
State University
have recently published results of a
multimaterial metal 3D printing project. Using
Optomec Laser Engineered Net Shaping
(LENS) technology, the
team has succeed in 3D printing components made from two
different alloys in a single process.

Amit Bandyopadhyay, WSU Professor in the School of Mechanical
and Materials Engineering, calls
the findings

“a step towards the next level of manufacturing and the next
generation of design, validation, optimization and
manufacturing using 3D printing.”

WSU Professor Amit Bandyopadhyay holds a 3D printed sample of Inconel 718 and copper. Photo via WSUWSU Professor Amit
Bandyopadhyay holds a 3D printed sample of Inconel 718 and
copper. Photo via WSU

Multimaterial 3D printing challenges

In the WSU study, researchers sought to improve the
thermophysical properties of Inconel
, an aerospace-grade supper alloy, making it more
suited to 3D printing, and to improve applications.

Highly resistant to temperatures, Inconel 718 melts
at 1,336°C (2437°F) and is slow to cool. To improve the
cooling rate, the WSU team proposed to deposit copper onto
Inconel 718.

With different melting points (copper melts at 1,085°C) and
properties 3D printing both alloys proved to be incredibly
challenging, taking many considerations into account. To name
one: due to copper’s natural luster, the team were working on
an understanding “that more than 95% of the energy of the laser
beam is reflected, limiting the amount of heat contributing to
melting of the material.”

The weakest link

After an initial attempt failed, the team discovered the right
parameters and successfully 3D printed Inconel 718/copper
components that cooled 250% faster than those made in Inconel

3D printed Inconel 718/copper samples. Photo via WSU3D printed Inconel
718/copper samples. Photo via WSU

To make these parts traditionally would have required welding
multiple pieces together. The success of the project means
that high-performance parts made from Inconel 718 and copper
are afforded a longer, less fuel-heavy, life.

Professor Bandyopadhyay concludes, “[Multimaterial additive
manufacturing] allows us to vary the composition and add
functionality to a product during 3D printing that is
traditionally very difficult to achieve, and we can do this in
a single process with a single machine.”

Results of the project, “Additive
manufacturing of Inconel 718—Copper alloy bimetallic structure
using laser engineered net shaping (LENS™)
“, are published
online in Additive Manufacturing journal. The study is
co-authored by Bonny Onuike, Bryan Heer and Amit

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Featured image shows A thimble of 3D printed Inconel
718 and copper. Photo via WSU.

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