The German research institute, The Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS, has recently developed a metal filament that could effectively be 3D printed in standard printers, further avoiding use of access metal binder contents for developing hardmetal products.
Confirming the recent development, Dr. Johannes Pötschke, Fraunhofer IKTS’s Heads of Hardmetals and Cermets group, said that the filaments can be used as semi-finished products in standard printers, eventually making it possible to print hardmetals with an extremely low metal binder content.
For the record, Hardmetals are typically a type of cemented carbine, used to make industrial cutting tools, and other rugged components. Common hardmetal combinations include, titanium carbide (TiC), tantalum carbide (TaC), tungsten carbide (WC) and cobalt or nickel mixtures.
Although polymer 3D printers and industrial binder jets could be used with these materials, Fraunhofer IKTS’ research team aims on seeking more cost-effective and flexible means of producing hardmetal products.
Sources cite that Fraunhofer’s method, similar to tech companies such as Desktop Metal, and rival 3D printer maker Markforged, aims on using FFF/FDM methodology for a metal 3D printing solution.
Dr. Tassilo Moritz, Fraunhofer IKTS’s shaping expert was quoted saying that the material-efficient FFF opens interesting possibilities to produce large, complex prototypes or special tools made from hardmetals.
Reportedly, Fraunhofer IKTS has made FFF based 3D printable filaments by merging hardmetal powders with organic binders, an example of which includes corn starch, the base ingredient of polylactic acid (PLA).
As per sources, hardmetal parts can be 3D printed in the composite filament on a desktop which is later post-sintered in a furnace, as to burn out all organic content for further fusing the metal particles together.
Dr. Pötschke claims that their development makes 3D printing hardmetal filaments possible, containing just 8% binder and a fine grain size below 0.8 micrometers.
As per reliable sources, IKTS has recently made an experimental component using the metal filament, which demonstrated an extreme hardness of up to 1700 HV10.