Laser additive manufacturing works with aircraft-grade aluminum alloy

May 8, 2020
The aluminum alloy is suitable for a laser additive manufacturing process called laser powder-bed fusion, enabling 3D printing of parts that have traditionally been manufactured using casting practices.

Digital manufacturing innovator VELO3D (Campbell, CA) has released its process for additive manufacturing of parts in Aluminum F357 on its Sapphire metal 3D printing system.

This aluminum alloy is suitable for the laser powder-bed fusion (LPBF) process, enabling 3D printing of parts that have traditionally been manufactured using casting practices. There are other aluminum alloys commonly used in metal additive manufacturing, but Aluminum F357 can be anodized and shares characteristics with A356, a widely used casting alloy.

“Aluminum F357 has already been certified for mission-critical applications—unlike some exotic alloys—so it was a logical addition to our materials portfolio,” states Benny Buller, Founder and CEO of VELO3D. “We will continue to add more compatible materials that enable customers to print parts they couldn’t before, yet with even better material properties than traditional manufacturing.” 

The manufacturing process of Aluminum F357 for Sapphire was developed jointly with PWR (Ormeau, QLD, Australia), a global supplier of advanced cooling solutions to Formula 1, NASCAR, and other racing series, along with the automotive, military, and aerospace industries. “We chose Aluminum F357 due to its ideal material properties to suit thermal performance, machining and weldability,” states Matthew Bryson, General Manager for PWR. “Our ability to print freeform and lightweight structures for heat transfer applications with our Sapphire system from VELO3D will further enhance performance and packaging optimization opportunities for our product range and provide significant value to our customers.” 

The VELO3D-patented SupportFree process eliminates the consideration of support structures for complex passageways, steep overhangs, and low angles. Coupled with its noncontact recoater, the company’s printing process can produce the ultrathin wall structures and high aspect ratios that are essential for a variety of flight-critical applications. 

The company recently announced that a tall application will be available later in 2020 where, for the first time with LPBF, meter-tall parts can be printed without support structures, creating new part opportunities for industrial applications. 

The Sapphire metal additive manufacturing printer is now compatible with Titanium64, INCONEL alloy 718, and Aluminum F357. A material datasheet for Aluminum F357 can be downloaded here.

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