Will the marriage of 3D printing and aluminum transform the aluminum industry

3D printing is a kind of rapid prototyping technology, it is a kind of digital model file as the basis, using powdered metal or plastic and other bondable materials, through the way of layer by layer printing to construct objects. 3D printing is usually used digital technology material printer to achieve. It is often used to make models in fields such as mold making and industrial design, and then gradually used in the direct manufacturing of some products, and there are already parts printed using this technology. The technology has applications in jewelry, footwear, industrial design, architecture, engineering and construction (AEC), automotive, aerospace, dental and medical industries, education, geographic information systems, civil engineering, robotic support, and other fields. Such as 3D printed running shoes, 3D printed prosthetic limbs, 3D racing wheelchairs, 3D printed sportswear, and so on, have all made their appearance in powder.

In the aluminum industry, some of the world's industry giants also seem to see the broad prospects of 3D printing technology, have announced that they will soon join the 3D printing business. RUSAL Group (RUSAL) has announced that it has signed an agreement with SAUER GmbH of Germany, a member company of DMGMORI, the world's largest manufacturer of hybrid laminate manufacturing machines, to jointly develop industrial 3D printing technology for printing aluminum and aluminum alloys. The technology will enable the printing of aluminum parts for customers in the machine manufacturing, aerospace and automotive industries, signaling an industry-leading position for the world's aluminum giant in 3D printing.

The Americans are also feeling the 3D printing wave. Researchers at Michigan Technological University's Open Sustainability Technology (MOST) Laboratory have launched a project to explore common aluminum alloy materials for use in 3D printing technology. The paper on the project, "Structural property relationships of GMAW-based 3D metal printing technology when using common aluminum welding alloys as feedstock. The beginning of this research will be a good start to bring aluminum alloy 3D printing to life.

3D printing has brought about a worldwide manufacturing revolution. Previously, the design of parts was completely dependent on whether the production process could be achieved, while the emergence of 3D printers will overturn this production idea, which makes companies no longer consider the production process when producing parts, and the design of any complex shape can be achieved by 3D printers. This will greatly enhance the precision of precision instrument parts, making them run more refined and smoothly.

This important feature is reflected in the aluminum industry, which can be used for the processing of aluminum parts using specially customized 3D printers, and can control the accuracy to the micron level. This feature is so critical to the refinement of aluminum parts for various machines today that the German company Audi has purchased a number of 3D printers with the ultimate goal of "achieving efficient production of small batches with optimized topology and processes".

The Russian scientific and business communities are also working together to improve the country's competitiveness in the global 3D printing market. Spacecraft are an important priority, especially for the manufacture of satellites. The project to create a high-quality artificial satellite 3D printer is now under development and is supported by the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos (National Space Corporation) and other space-related Russian companies and universities.

At the end of 2016, Sirius, an all-Russian educational center for outstanding young people located in Sochi, Russia, presented a sample of the 3D printer to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The model has now been adapted for use in International Space Station operations to create suitable artificial satellites. JorisLaarman Laboratory has introduced a 3D printed furniture - "Gradient Aluminum Chair". Made using a small amount of molten aluminum alloy and combined with 3D printing technology, the chair has a complex spatial structure and aesthetic appeal, illustrating the concept of furniture design in the digital age.

At the end of 2017, the American journal Nature published a universal metal 3D printing technique based on nano-nucleating agents for 3D printing aluminum alloys, developed by TresaM. Pollock and others, inspired by traditional melt casters. The technique allows 3D printing of 7075 and 6061 series high-strength aluminum alloys, which were previously unsuitable for 3D printing, by selective laser melting. 3D printed products have a crack-free, isometric, fine-crystalline microstructure, allowing 3D printed aluminum alloys to be close in strength to wrought aluminum alloys. This method is suitable for a range of alloy materials and 3D printing equipment, and has good generalizability. It is also useful for traditional processes such as melt casting and hot die casting, which are prone to hot tearing and hardening cracking problems.

3D printing and aluminum "marriage" whether it will change the aluminum industry? Let's wait and see!